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MSU study suggests unsuspected source of potential cyber attacks

Michigan State University researchers are developing a profile of individuals who carry out ‘cyber-attacks’ on government websites.

The results may help law enforcement identify who might be behind future attacks.

MSU criminal justice professor Thomas Holt asked hundreds of American and international college students about their feelings about being hypothetical ‘civilian cyber-warriors’, individuals who use the internet to attack or disable government computers.

“We have a better understanding of what leads individuals to engage in …or perhaps be ‘radicalized’… to behaviors in the real world,” says Holt,  “But, we have less of an idea in ‘cyber environments.’ So this gives us an initial profile of what an actor might look like.”

Holt says he was surprised that ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’ were not among the reasons cited by those who were most willing to consider ‘cyber-attacks’.

Holt says the government may want to look less at ‘political radicals’ and more at young people who download music illegally, since they tend to believe their cyber actions are hard for law enforcement to catch.

The MSU study appears in the journal “Crime and Delinquency.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.