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Banks appease online terrorists

International terrorists are using the Internet to extort money from financial institutions.

International terrorists are using the Internet to extort money from financial institutions, prompting at least some of those institutions to adopt appeasement policies.

Banks, brokerage houses, and investment firms in both the United States and the United Kingdon have paid off criminals who threatened to attack their computer systems, according to a report in the Times of London. The report says gangs of online terrorists have amassed up to 400 million pounds worldwide by issuing threats that they will destroy the computer systems of companies who don't meet their monetary demands.

The blackmailers demonstrate their ability to make good on their threats by using advanced information warfare techniques developed by the military, the report said. The National Security Agency says the criminals have invaded computer systems using coded devices called "logic bombs" that can be remotely detonated, electromagnetic pulses, and high-emission radio frequency guns. The terrorists have also reportedly left encrypted messages at the highest security levels that read, "Now do you believe we can destroy your computers?"

In four incidents reported to have occurred in London, the gangs threatened senior directors of financial institutions and demonstrated their ability to crash their systems. In each case, the firm transferred money to an offshore bank account, cash that the gang removed within minutes, the report said. In three of the cases, the blackmail demand was 10 million pounds. The fourth victim paid 12.5 million pounds.

Both the FBI and Scotland Yard are currently investigating incidents of computer extortion. But banking officials told the Times that they are reluctant to contact the police about the attacks because they fear the publicity would result in a loss of customer confidence in their ability to protect sensitive financial data. Instead, many companies seek help from private investigating firms that offer protection from the attacks.

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