Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff warned that the Hezbollah resistance movement is the greatest threat to US national security. Hezbollah is known or suspected to have been involved in numerous terror attacks against the U.S., Israel or other Western targets, and includes the 1983 suicide truck bombings in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. Marines at their barracks and 58 at the French military barracks. Intelligence officials in the U.S. and Britain believe Hezbollah cells may use their computer expertise and capabilities to launch cyber attacks.
A 2002 CIA report warned a number of terrorist groups are beginning to plan attacks on western computer networks. The report went on to say that al-Qaeda and Hezbollah were becoming more adept at using the internet and computer technologies. In more recent reports they name Sunni extremists Hezbollah and Aleph as groups believed to be developing cyber terrorism plans. For terrorist groups, cyber weapons are cheap, easy to acquire and difficult to detect or track and are quickly becoming a common weapon in their arsenal.
While Hezbollah's capabilities to launch such an attack are questionable, the intelligence community in U.S., Britain and Israeli are taking the threat seriously. Why, because Hezbollah showed its increasing technological sophistication and capabilities during its war with Israel back in 2006. Once Israel began bombing Hezbollah targets, the intelligence sources say cyber space began. While intelligence analysts are convinced conventional terror remains Hezbollah's main strategy and weapon, some believe that it could activate sleeper cells in order to open a second front in cyber space. Intelligence sources know that terrorist groups including Hezbollah, the Abu Nidal Organization, and UBL's Al-Qeida Organization are using computerized files, email, and encryption to support their operations.
Hezbollah Profile (AKA Hizbollah, Hizbu'llah)Established In the 1980s
Home Base: Lebanon, but it also has cells in North/South America, Asia, Europe and Africa.
Support: Iran and Syria provide substantial organizational, training and financing.
Orientation: Hezbollah is a radical Iranian-backed Lebanese Islamic Shiite group
Funding: estimated at $60 million annually
Size: Hezbollah's core consists of several thousand militants and activists
Equipment: Hezbollah possesses up-to-date information technologies - broadband wireless networks and computers.
Cyber Capabilities: Global Rating in Cyber Capabilities -- Tied at Number 37Hezbollah has been able to engage in fiber optic cable tapping, enabling data interception and the hijacking of Internet and communication connections.
Cyber Warfare Budget: $935,000 USD
Offensive Cyber Capabilities: 3.1 (1 = Low, 3 = Moderate and 5 = Significant)
Cyber Weapons Rating: Basic -- but developing intermediate capabilities
Ties: Hezbollah has close ties with Iran. Many believe that Hezbollah is a surrogate for the Iranian army
Fact: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared May 8, 2008 that the Shiite militant group's communications network is its most important weapon, and that the government's decision to target the network was tantamount to a declaration of war. In Hezbollah's view, its communications technology is just as essential for the group's survival as its missiles.
Hezbollah is on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations. The FBI says it now considers Hezbollah operatives more capable and robust than even Al Qaeda terrorists. With Hezbollah's interest in developing advanced cyber weapons, their capabilities will continue to increase. As we have seen, the proliferation of cyber weapons is rapidly expanding and no longer limited to nation states and organized criminal groups. The cyber arms club now includes terrorist groups. Using new hacking techniques, taking advantage of security vulnerabilities and using simple proven cyber attack methods, terrorists have the capability to attack us in way not seen before. Key infrastructure systems that include utilities, banking, media/TV systems, telecommunications and air traffic control systems have already been compromised. No one knows if cyber terrorists created trap doors and left logic bombs allowing them to easily bypass security systems and disrupt our critical infrastructure in coordination with traditional style attacks.