Wednesday, March 08, 2006


This site is a great resource on the Baader-Meinhof gang, also known as the Red Army Faction.

One thing that caught my attention was the events of 1970. The RAF is formed in March. In April Baader is arrested. In May Meinhoff and Ensslin break him out of prison. By June they are in Jordan getting terrorist training from the PLO.

Up to that point the members of the RAF have not amounted to much. Baader and Ensslin have bombed a couple of department stores. Before helping spring Baader from jail, Meinehof's most daring act of protest resulted in a traffic violation charge.

After comming back from Jordan the first thing the new terrorist cell does is to rob three banks on the same day netting 200,000 DM. The proceds are used to buy guns. After half the gang is arrested in a police raid the remainder robs another two banks taking 115,000 DM.

The gang does not issue its manifesto until after the first five bank raids. The bombing and Kidnapping campaign that the gang is best known for only begins in 1972.

The key ingredient that separated the RAF from the numerous other Marixst-Anarchist groups of the time was access to money. Access to cash allowed the RAF to absorb the Socialist Patients Collective (SPK) that later becomes the 'second generation' of the RAF. The SPK began its bombing campaign a year before the RAF performed its first purely political (as opposed to fund-raising) action.

Another point that the RAF history demonstrates is the fact that some terrorists are insane in the literal sense. The SPK was a group of mental patients being treated by the psychiatrist Wolfgang Huber. There are plenty of hackers whose grasp on reality is similarly tenuous.

It is highly unlikely that a 'cyber-terrorist' attack could ever have the same impact as a bombing campaign. Even a 'spectacular' attack such as shutting down the New York Stock exchange would have considerably less impact than planting a bomb outside it.

There are already nationalist hacker groups that latch on to pretty much every international incident. Their activities are mostly unremarkable except for the possibility that they might tip an international incident into an international crisis, possibly a war.

But what if a nationalist hacker group latches onto Internet crime as a method of raising money instead of robbing banks as the RAF did or using inherited oil wealth as Bin Laden did?

A group that operated in that mode could establish a web of criminal contacts giving it access to the type of 'day zero' attacks that could then be used for serious, high profile cyber attacks.

One of the slides I often use to introduce Internet crime has a brief history of hackers. A lot of time and effort went into stopping the professional Internet criminal in the mid 1990s. They didn't show up until about 2000 by which time practically everyone agreed that the real Internet crime problem was script kiddie hackers like Kevin Mitnick. As a result the professional criminals got a free ride until phishing attacks made professional Internet crime impossible to ignore.

What if there were like minded groups out there today operating under the covers?

Are we even looking to see if they are there?

1 comment:

J said...

For true information about the SPK see:

For example: