Going Underground to Fight Cyber Crime; Viruses Are One Thing but How Do You Fight Weapons That 'Fry' Computers?

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS PARTRIDGE

A BOMB that destroys civilisation but leaves everyone standing.

Private companies moving into military bunkers to protect themselves.

Undercover operatives hired to interrogate everyone and use the information to corrupt us. A nightmare vision, but not the latest Tom Clancy: it is the real war now being fought in that most glamorous of battlegrounds, the IT department.

"In my opinion, electro magnetic weapons will soon be in the hands of terrorists," says Howard Seguine, a former Pentagon official and now an analyst specialising in future threats, at the influential Battelle Institute in the US. "I am not saying the sky is falling, but so many people are working on them they must come out soon."

When it comes to computer security, hackers and viruses always hog the headlines. The Code Red worm was the latest to cause panic - the Pentagon shut down most of its websites rather than risk infection - and although the damage did not match the hype, it still cost tens of millions of dollars.

But the latest threat is much more physical, and is reckoned to come from anti-capitalist demonstrators, who are graduating from the bricks and Molotov cocktails to weapons capable of attacking the computers on which global capitalism depends.

At a meeting of the City of London's computer security forum, the Bishopsgate Crime Prevention Association, earlier this month, there was a stark warning of the increasing threat from bombers.

"We used to rubbish the anti-capitalist threat," says Simon Anderson, of AL Digital, one of the organisations involved, "but people are saying that attacking a computer would be an ideal way of attacking capitalism without the violence."

The solution? Get your machines underground, where they will be safe from both electronic and physical attack - like the place run by AL Digital, which operates from a former nuclear bunker near Sandwich in Kent, built by the RAF during the Cold War and guaranteed immune to radio waves.

The bunker is home to hundreds of computers mainly used for processing credit-card purchases on the internet (every time you buy a CD from Richer Sounds, the details pass through the bunker), electronic banking and healthcare insurance - all areas where disruption would have huge consequences. Companies already store vital data on disks and tape in former railway tunnels and wartime air-raid shelters - have you seen those big red-and-whitestriped concrete constructions just off the Tottenham Court Road? …