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Memo Says bin Laden Backers Scoured Web for Attack Ideas
The FBI on Wednesday sent a bulletin to computer security experts around the country indicating that al-Qaida terrorists may have been studying American dams and water-supply systems in preparation for new attacks. The bulletin was sent after U.S. authorities found a computer belonging to a person with "indirect ties" to Osama bin Laden that contained architectural and engineering software related to dams and other water-retaining structures, according to the FBI.
In the bulletin, the FBI indicates members of al-Qaida have scoured the Web in search of methods for gaining control of water supply facilities and wastewater treatment plants through the computer networks used by U.S. utility companies.
Existence of the bulletin was first reported by computer security firm SecurityFocus.com.
The bulletin was not made public, but instead was sent by the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center to about 3,000 members of the center's InfraGard program, an information-sharing partnership between the FBI and private industry, according to SecurityFocus.com.
"U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have received indications that al-Qaida members have sought information on Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems available on multiple SCADA-related Web sites," reads the bulletin, according to SecurityFocus. "They specifically sought information on water supply and wastewater management practices in the U.S. and abroad."
Such systems are used by utility companies and municipalities to control equipment at unmanned facilities from a central location. The systems are generally not on the public Internet, but are connected through dedicated communications channels that link a control center to hundreds of "remote terminal units." These in turn control water pumps and other equipment.
The FBI did not say where the computer which contained the architectural and engineering software was found or who owned it.