Cyberwar Threat is real but Russia & China won't risk attack if America is prepared to respond
I've worked on information security for more than 20 years, and during that time, there hasn't been a year that has gone by without news like "hacker breaks into
Anyone involved in sales knows the "FUD sell"--based on fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Some of the talking heads who are declaring us to be in danger want to sell billions of dollars of solutions to the problem. They are often the same people who had "ownership" of the problem before they stepped through the revolving door into private-sector executive positions. Now they'll get it right? I'm skeptical.
Let's consider what they're saying. The notion of cyberwar is that it would serve as a "force multiplier" for conventional operations. Preparatory to attacking a target, communications networks and command/control systems would be disrupted, power systems might be temporarily crashed, navigation systems confused, etc. Proponents of cyberwar claim that it might save lives; I've even heard them claim it's more effective to recoverably crash a nation's power grid than to bomb it with precision airstrikes. The misdirection works, however. We're now down into the technical weeds and lose track of the main question: "What war?"
When some pundit says that we're losing a cyberwar to
Isn't it absurd that the FBI announces that our "smart power grid" systems are massively penetrated by cyberwarriors from "hostile powers" even as U.S. energy companies are bidding on multibillion-dollar contracts with the Chinese to sell them their own smart power grid?
All websites are constantly probed for weaknesses by robotic worms, spammers, hackers, and maybe even a government agent or two. Complaining will not work. Making threats will not work. If cyberwar changes one thing about the military landscape, it's that we can finally put away the hoary old saying, "The best defense is a strong offense." The only defense in cyberwar is having a good defense.
Intelligence--cyberespionage, if you will--is not cyberwar. It's just business as usual. But the cyberwar pundits lump everything in the same bucket, pointing the finger at another nation-state and saying we're under attack. What's scary is that the accusations are coming from places they shouldn't be. I think we're seeing a bureaucratic attempt at budget and turf enlargement by the FBI. But someone needs to ask why the nation's cops are suddenly involved in international diplomacy. That's the
And accusations should be accompanied and supported by publicly accessible facts, not just leaked classified reports. The reports apparently contain bizarre inaccuracies. According to journalist
The Estonian cyberwar of 2007 is another good example. Initially, wild claims were that it was a Russian-sponsored attack of incredible sophistication, a possible preparation for a real assault. It turned out to be more a case that the Estonian government's defenses were weak, a handful of individuals caused all the trouble, and
Or consider the
As taxpayers, we have a problem: Give more money to someone who built a disaster, and you'll get a bigger, more expensive disaster. The need for a mature, national-level approach to cybersecurity is painfully clear, and it starts with leadership, rational assessment of our problems, cessation of finger-pointing and yellow-peril screeching, and an honest after-action review of how we got to where we are today.
We have at least two opponents with the ability to launch damaging cyberattacks against the United States -- Russia and China. They have probably done the reconnaissance and planning necessary for these attacks, probing American networks for vulnerabilities. But they have not launched them. Why not?
Preparing for Cyberattacks
James Lewis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies says cyberattacks are a cause for concern; expert Marcus Ranum argues that we should focus our security efforts elsewhere. Your feedback
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