The Coming Cyber War

March 10th, 2009 | Sources: Wall Street Journal

Subjects: ,

cyberbullyShortly after Russia’s brazen denial-of-service attack knocked Kyrgyzstan off the grid for a week, the impoverished nation’s president announced he was closing Manas Air Base, the US’ last remaining facility in Central Asia.

The Bear’s cyber-bullying had the Big O bumming since he planned to use the base as a staging ground for troops on their way to Afghanistan.

Still, that was small potatoes compared to the coordinated cyber-attacks on the Pentagon and other US agencies in 2007, which among other things infiltrated Robert Gates’ email.

The hack demonstrated for the once and future Defense Secretary that his country isn’t nearly as prepared to defend itself in a cyber war as it is to do so in a conventional military war.

Obama got the memo too. He just charged Melissa Hathaway to lead a 60-day review of America’s cyber security prowess, or lack thereof.

The more our government, financial systems and power grid rely on the Internet, the more exposed we become. Michael McConnell, who was National Intelligence Director under Bush Jr., told the Wall Street Journal that cyber security was “the soft underbelly of this country.”

Last year, Bush created the Comprehensive National Cyber Security Initiative, a top-secret $6 billion program directed at shielding dot-gov and dot-mil Web sites with nuts and bolts security procedures ironically dubbed “Einstein.”

ChinesewormattackCyber aggressors would likely cruise past such defenses without breaking a sweat, if they haven’t already.

The US government repels amateurish cyber attacks daily. Many are after weapon designs or classified communication.

Most appear to originate in China, though it’s not possible to know, the Internet being what it is.

There were 13,000 information security attacks in 2007 alone, according to the Wall Street Journal, and that’s not counting the ones we don’t know about.

 So far as the US public knows, no one’s launched a sophisticated, coordinated, sustained cyber-attack against the US since 2007.

Even if this has happened and we’ve defended ourselves fairly well, no one knows what will happen next time.

Experts fret about damage lasting months to the power grid, and about banking, telecommunications and transportation systems. 

And according to the Journal, it’s far from clear that the Feds can impose security standards on the private sector, much less test existing ones to assess their vulnerability.

The debate over warrantless wiretapping will sound tame once these issues come up.


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