Do or Die

An article from Do or Die Issue 6. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 33.

Contractors' War on Eco-hackers

The following article is from Contract Journal of 17/10/96. It's interesting to see how worried roadbuilders have become about protesters with computers...

Contractors are investing heavily to protect sensitive and confidential information from militant environmentalists hacking into company IT systems, it emerged this week. Balfour Beatty, Costain, Mowlem and Alfred McAlpine all recognise the threat from a small group of hardline anti-roads activists, some of whom possess advanced computer skills. The firms have taken steps to make illegal entry as difficult as possible.

Colin Darch, group IT manager with Balfour Beatty, told CJ: "It is a perennial problem. We have ongoing plans against attacks by urban terrorists who want to disrupt us or use information against us."

Computerisation is evolving rapidly as is the move away from mainframe systems to personal computers. Networking is "a bolthole we are trying to shore up" said Darch. He added : "You have to work hard to make your system impenetrable". Despite the downturn in civil engineering, the number of protest groups continues to increase. Costain's IT director, Marion Carney, said protesters could pose a threat to both physical security and company networks. "It's not just our confidential information they are after," said Carney. "they just want to cause a nuisance. We've made it difficult to access information and we can monitor unwelcome attempts on our system. It's fairly standard among other contractors."

Mowlem's information cannot be electronically attacked by external hackers because it does not have a wide-area network system. Alfred McAlpine has done a lot to improve protection, the new arrangements having made its IT system more secure.

Of all construction firms, Amec is the most bullish about its position. Asked what threat hackers pose, group IT manager Keith Rustage said; "I don't perceive it to be any danger". But a Computacenter survey of 140 of the world's top hackers, published this week, suggests that Amec's optimism could be misplaced. The verdict in the survey was that: 75% believe company safeguards are lax. 60% believe opportunities to access systems are increasing 55% believe the internet provides more opportunity to access private systems.

Do or Die DTP/web team: