U.K. Home Secretary warns of cyber attack

Published 26 April 2007

John Reid said that al-Qaeda’s aim was to “bleed us to bankruptcy” by attempting to “cripple” financial markets

On the eve of the restructuring of the U.K. Home Office, Home Secretary John Reid warned of the “devastating consequences” of cyber terrorism. The Home Office is to be split on 9 May, to concentrate on crime reduction, terrorism, and mass migration, with Reid directly accountable for assisting the prime minister in coordinating the Government’s security strategy.

Reid said priority was being given to protecting what he described as the country’s critical national infrastructure from terrorist attack. He said al-Qaeda’s aim was to “bleed us to bankruptcy” by attempting to “cripple” financial markets. Western energy supplies were among targets threatened by the terrorist group. While attacks on oil supplies would cause “incalculable damage,” Reid said there was now an additional threat of a terrorist assault on the West’s 21st century electronic communication systems.

The U.S. Commission of Critical Infrastructure Protection says possible cyber terrorist targets include the banking industry, military installations, power plants, air traffic control centers, and water systems. A report to the U.S. House of Representatives on “cyber terrorism” said attacks on computer networks and the information stored in them could cause death or injury through explosions, plane crashes, water contamination, as well as severe economic loss.

Reid admitted that “scaring people does not produce security”. He said the public, business, and the government had to work together to protect the national infrastructure. The “pace, scale and intensity of innovation our adversaries are capable of allows no room for complacency.”