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September 10, 2011

Kansas remembers 9/11: The cyber cops

The people featured in this package suffered personal loss from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, endured fallout from them, or worked in fields that evolved in a world changed by them. Their stories, shared with Eagle reporter Fred Mann, are presented here in their own words.

Randy Stone, a former Wichita police detective, and Brett Eisenman, a former Sedgwick County sheriff’s detective, work as computer forensic analysts at Midwest Cyber Association in Wichita. They talk about cyber security.

Eisenman: “On Sept. 11, I was assigned to intelligence. The first phone call I received that morning was from my road sergeant. He said, ‘The World Trade Center’s been hit, and you need to start notifyng people.’ We were in the middle of a squad meeting. I walked out of the meeting and turned a TV on. The supervisor’s giving me the eye. He said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘The World Trade Center has been hit, and it’s on TV.’ He said, ‘No way.’

“We all watch as that second airplane hits the tower. At that point it was clear this was an intentional attack and our attention immediately turned to how much of a threat is this, and what other areas are going to be affected? We came to the realization quick that in Sedgwick County, we didn’t have any list, or any way to notify or communicate with any leaders in the community of potential terrorist locations. I started working on a list of all the key infrastructure locations and potential targets.

“I don’t feel we have prepared ourselves, individually or as a country, to face the threat of terrorism on our own soil.”

Stone: “I was wearing two hats. I was wearing my police hat, part of which was as a member of the SWAT team. The other hat was as platoon sergeant with an MP company in Hutchinson in the Army reserve. Watching TV, I knew I had to start calling troops and making sure they were available. It would just be a matter of time. “9/11 made us more aware how vulnerable we were in the physical sense, and we’re just now starting to learn how much more vulnerable we are in the digital sense.”

Eisenman: “We’ve seen an increase in cyber attacks. I don’t know you could say it’s directly attributed to 9/11, but it does seem like it’s the new frontier.”

Stone: A lot of terrorist orgnizations are recruiting on the Internet. They share information on the Internet. They recon their targets on the Internet. There’s a site that’s an online virtual world. You can create your avatar on this site. You run your person through all these different scenarios. It provides a virtual meeting ground for terrorists. There’s been known incidents inside the intelligence organizations where that kind of activity has occurred.”

Eisenman: “There’s been documented situations where it’s believed that multiple attacks occurred against multiple organizations at the same time by the same source. Somewhere along the line, somebody has to recognize that it is an act of terrorism. We don’t have a mechanism at the local level to even begin to define any activity of that nature.”

Stone: “If the same foreign IP address is trying to hack into Sedgwick County government, city of Wichita government, Western Resources (now Westar Energy), The Eagle, a variety of different infrastructure places in Sedgwick County, there’s no mechanism to tie all that together in order to be able to recognize that.”

Eisenman: In the initial days after Sept. 11, I was attempting to create a method through which security chiefs could communicate with law enforcement and each other to talk about those type of incidents. I think after I left, the project went . . .”

Stone: “Nowhere.

Eisenman: “Yeah, that’s the word I was looking for.”

Stone: “That requires training and skill and equipment and resources, and a management decision to say, ‘We’re going to investigate those types of things.’

“The thing that gets the most focus right now is attacks against control systems that run electrical generating plants. I think the thing you’re going to see the most is some sort of identify theft network intrusion where they steal your information for their own personal financial gain and to support terrorist organizations.”

_ Fred Mann

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