Iraqi Computer Attacks Feared

Friday, 17 January 2003, 1:08 PM EST

Intelligence officials are concerned that a recent rise in electronic attacks against government and military computer networks in the United States may be the work of pro-Iraqi hackers and could signal a "potential crisis" in national security, according to a classified F.B.I. assessment.

The assessment, prepared last week by the National Infrastructure Protection Center at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, warned intelligence officials that the attacks, which have been relatively limited, are likely to grow more widespread and "more dangerous" as tension over a possible war against Iraq grows.

American intelligence analysts say they have long been concerned by the notion that Al Qaeda could use computers to wage terror — disrupting water treatment plants or nuclear facilities, for instance. Experts say the link between Iraq and computer hacking may have been underestimated and poses a growing threat to United States security.

"Iraq is certainly among the places in the world that we think a cyberattack might well be launched from," Representative Robert E. Andrews of New Jersey, a Democrat on the House Armed Service Committee who has been active on cyberwarfare issues, said in an interview.

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