In his new novel Critical Mass (which will be given away to everyone who subscribes or renews for at least 6 months through January), Whitley Strieber describes how easy it would be to smuggle a nuclear device into a major city and use this to blackmail a country into adopting Sharia law. Now it turns out that future terrorism may not need a bomb at all: A keyboard will do.

“Carry out all my demands or the entire country’s electricity will be cut off.” Is this a line from a thriller, or is it a possible threat made possible with a computer keyboard? The next step in terrorism is the attempt to cause damage to systems that are operated by computer networks, such as financial systems, power stations, hospitals, television broadcasts, and satellites.

Researcher Yaniv Levyatan says, “Today, there is a growing trend among hackers around the world to threaten national infrastructures for ransom. A fleet of fighter planes is not necessary to attack a power station; a keyboard is sufficient. And if you don’t have the skills, there are enough mercenary hackers who can do it for you.”

And unlike Whitley’s novel, this is NOT fiction. In November 2009, Brazil’s electricity was blacked out for more than an hour. “It is still not clear what happened, but one assumption is that it was a cyber -terror attack,” Levyatan suggests, adding that in 2007 Estonia’s computer infrastructures were attacked, most likely by Russian hackers, bringing the country to a near standstill for about 48 hours.

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