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U.S. senators: Al Qaeda calls for 'electronic jihad'

An al Qaeda video calling for "electronic jihad" illustrates the urgent need for cybersecurity standards for the most critical networks in the United States, a group of senators said.

"Internet piracy is an important field of jihad," the narrator of the video says, according to a translation. He advises followers with expertise to "target the websites and information systems of big companies and government agencies of the countries that attack Muslims."

The video calls for cyberattacks against networks such as the electric grid and compares vulnerabilities in the United States' critical cyber networks to the vulnerabilities in the country's aviation system before 9/11, according to a statement Tuesday from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

"This is the clearest evidence we've seen that Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups want to attack the cyber systems of our critical infrastructure," committee chairman Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, said in the statement. "Congress needs to act now to protect the American public from a possible devastating attack on our electric grid, water delivery systems or financial networks, for example."

Ranking committee member Susan Collins, R-Maine, said al Qaeda realizes that a cyberattack on critical infrastructure might cause more harm than a traditional physical attack.
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That is why the Senate needs to act on our bipartisan Cybersecurity Act that requires minimum security performance requirements for key critical infrastructure cyber networks," she said in the committee statement.

The Department of Homeland Security has received more than 50,000 reports of cyber intrusions or attempted intrusions since October 2011, an increase of 10,000 reports over the same period the previous year, the statement said.
The Senate committee said the video, made by al Qaeda's media outlet, was obtained by the FBI.