British authorities are bracing for an increase in cyberterrorism as al Qaeda calls for "cyber jihad" following the death of Osama bin Laden, according to a report released Tuesday.
"There will be more cyber terrorism," said the report, released by the British Home Office to outline the country's counter-terrorism strategy. "We must increase our understanding of how terrorists use the Internet."
Since the death of Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda has "explicitly called not only for acts of lone or individual terrorism but also for 'cyber jihad,'" according to the report. Government officials are pushing for heightened security measures in response, as London prepares to host the 2012 Olympic Games.
While authorities maintain that the overall threat of cyberattack is low and say they have not seen evidence of "systematic cyber terrorism," they predict more Internet-based terrorist threats "as the tools and techniques needed for cyber attack become more widely available and the success of criminal cyber operations becomes more widely known," according to the report.
"Groups will continue to benefit from off-the-shelf technology in planning and conducting attacks, making operations more secure and potentially more lethal," the report said.
As an example of the type of threat authorities are trying to prevent, the report cited a a virus that spread to several companies around the world including Proctor & Gamble, AIG, Google and NASA. The virus sent users spam emails with the subject line "Here you have" and an attachment containing malware.
A group of hackers called "Brigades of Tariq ibn Ziyad" claimed responsibility for that attack, which the report said was "relatively unsophisticated but a likely indicator of a future trend."
Since material for a cyberattack can be hosted on foreign servers, British authorities must work together with authorities in other countries, particularly the United States, which "is by far the biggest provider of Internet hosting services in the world," according to the report.
But authorities in both countries can't prevent cyberterrorism on their own, the report noted.
"Action against terrorist use of the Internet will only be effective if the public understand the nature of the threat online and act to protect themselves," the report said. "Our role will be to encourage and facilitate public involvement in making the Internet a more hostile environment for terrorists."