FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, April 29, 2005

Terrorists are Lax About PC Security, Too

Are you one of those computer users who posts your passwords on your monitor with stickies? Of course not. But you probably know people who do. What's more, you might find it interesting that the world's most wanted terrorists aren't any better at computer security that those folks.

In February, US troops in Iraq captured a laptop belonging to terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Though al-Zarqawi himself got away, the laptop was found to contain a wealth of information about the terrorist and his contacts.

You would think that one of the world's most heavily pursued criminals would keep his digital information strongly encrypted, hidden, and accessible only with biometric tokens or something equally tough to break. Uh, no. Actually, examination of the laptop found digital pictures kept in, of all places, the generic Windows "My Pictures" folder.

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation, says that terrorists are hardly geniuses when it comes to computer security. "They tend not to have heavily encrypted computers, they're not using strong passwords. And just like business travelers, they lose their laptops."

Of course, the possibility exists that the laptop was a plant, intended to be found by US troops and lead them on a wild goose chase. But since it was recovered in such a high-level raid, that's considered unlikely.

Source: Forbes