Hackers intent on "destruction rather than public embarrassment" are poised to wreak havoc across America, the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) warned yesterday.
According to the latest report from NIPC, an agency set up by the US government to monitor threats to the country's national infrastructure, both people and companies were at risk.
"The infrastructure will certainly be a target of cyber protestors and hacktivists in the future, with the potential goal being intentional destruction rather than public embarrassment or purely political statements," it said.
"Although the cyber protests seen today have already caused limited damage, the potential for future attacks could bring about large economic losses as well as potentially severe damage to the national infrastructure, affecting global markets and public safety," the report added.
The study, Cyber Protests: The Threat to the US Information Infrastructure, predicted that the danger posed by hackers was escalating.
The NIPC said: "Political events and emerging international situations will increasingly lead to cyber protests. The cyber protests that have occurred thus far have had little impact on US infrastructure.
"As computing technology becomes faster and better, and hacking tools become more advanced and easier to use, cyber protesting and hacktivism will become more significant to US national interests. Cyber protesters are becoming increasingly more organised and their techniques more sophisticated."
The NIPC warned that the most popularly targeted sites are those belonging to government, educational, commercial and cultural institutions. The report advised the tightening of security policies and increased co-operation to fight the hacking menace.
"Pro-active network defence and security management are imperative to the prevention of more serious damage to infrastructure assets. International co-operation and private-public co-operation within the US is necessary to ensure the ongoing function of the critical infrastructure," it said.
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