FBI director warns of 'rapidly expanding' cyberterrorism threat

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 4, 2010; 9:10 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III warned Thursday that the cyberterrorism threat is "real and . . . rapidly expanding."

Terrorists have shown "a clear interest" in pursuing hacking skills, he told thousands of security professionals at the RSA Conference in San Francisco. "They will either train their own recruits or hire outsiders, with an eye toward combining physical attacks with cyberattacks," he said.

"Al-Qaeda's online presence has become as potent as its physical presence" over the last decade, he said. Osama bin Laden long ago identified cyberspace as "a means to damage both our economy and our psyche -- and countless extremists have taken this to heart," he said.

Terror groups are using the Internet to recruit, radicalize and incite terrorism, he said. They are posting videos on how to build backpack bombs and bioweapons. "They are using social networking to link terrorist plotters and plans," he said.

Mueller also used his remarks to stress that the cyber threat cannot be fought by government alone. He urged companies to come forward and tell authorities when their computer systems have been hacked.

"Maintaining a silence will not benefit your or your company in the long run," he said.

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