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April, 2000: Cyberterrorism

At our April 6 meeting, Rob Kolstad presented a reality check on cyberterrorism. His presentation took us on four field trips:

  • To Oroville dam in the Central Valley of California, where the designers in the 1960's decided that in order to prevent terrorist acts they would make all of the dam's functions controlled remotely in Sacramento. In 1992 it was discovered that a hacker had penetrated the BLM network in Portland and gained root access on computers in Sacramento that control every dam in northern California. Obviously, if that hacker had opened the dam's flood gates, many lives could have been put in danger.
  • To an airport in Worcester, Mass., where a hacker in 1998 a hacker disabled communications such that the runway lights could not be turned on.
  • And to a hacker's lab, where Rob demonstrated how pre-packaged exploits can be used to quickly break into computers... and where the question has to be asked: if teenagers can do so much, what are the professionals able to do?
  • To a briefing on a future cyber attack in the year 2002. With the premise established that critical systems can easily be penetrated by hackers, Rob led us through a plausible scenario of an all-out cyber war including sabotage of the power grid, air traffic control systems, and oil pipelines.

Finally, Rob presented lessons from the field-trips, most notably the fact the constant probes on the Internet are often too small to be considered consequential-- but might have significant consequences if left un-checked. He discussed the importance of security audits, and the fact that a consultant's typical analysis reveals 5 to 30 vulnerabilities per system that is audited.

Rob is the former president of Berkeley Software Design, Inc. (BSDI), former SANS program manager, and now finds himself in the throes of a one year sabbatical. Rob is an entertaining and well-known speaker in the UNIX community with interests including optimization, promoting computing as a profession, and racquetball.

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February 15, 2009

February 2008: FRUUG Enters Quiescent Phase
After 27 years running, we're suspending operations.

Future Meetings:
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