In the future, a US president could consider economic sanctions, cyber-retaliation or a military strike if key US computer systems are attacked, officials said in the wake of recent attacks on the defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
The Pentagon is busy drawing up a cyber defense strategy to protect America from cyber attacks from foreign nations.
Leaders in cyber warfare
The Center for a New American Society published a study claiming the United States, Britain, France, Israel, Russia and China as the leaders in cyber-war. They also believe Moscow and Beijing view cyber-attacks as an attractive option in the event of a major conflict.
Alarming isn’t it? Obviously cyber warfare is a horrendous prospect that we would all like to avoid. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair. Or maybe it’s no worse than military action? Catch is it can also be carried out by any criminal organisation wanting to say black mail a government to release one of their own from prison. Or hold a corporation at ransom.
Growing concern about the reach of hackers
Internet-based attacks on critical systems such as gas, power and water have increased around the world.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon strategy will classify major cyber-attacks as acts of war i.e. paving the way for military retaliation. It’s intended as a warning to foes that may try to sabotage the US electricity grid, subways or pipelines, officials said.
“If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” a military official told the Wall Street Journal.
Considering that China and Russia are, rightly or wrongly, considered the most likely sources of such attacks I really don’t see how the United States could take military action? Unless of course they intend to start World War III?
Governments and companies open to attacks
Sony was for the third time since April this year attacked by a group of hackers calling themselves Lulz Security. According to those hackers it was child’s play to get access to Sony’s information since it wasn’t even encrypted. And China recently, again, according to Google, hacked them from a Chinese military cyber warfare unit, to get access to US and Asian senior officials’ gmail accounts.
From what I understand most information online is easy for hackers to access which is a terrifying prospect. It actually seems that most companies have only bothered to really protect credit card details, if that. No wonder it’s easy for criminals to steal identities.
Israel knows the name of the game!
Obviously drastic measures are needed to prevent cyber wars and handle attacks if and when they happen. And unfortunately sometimes go on the offensive as well.
The most intelligent solution I have come across is the way Israel is handling the problem.
Already in the 1990s they decided to conquer cyber warfare and presented Israel’s hackers with a choice of going to prison or work for the state.
That was the start of defence unit 8200 that thousands are said to have joined since. Needless to say this smart move has given Israel an advantage in a world rapidly immersed in cross border technology attacks.
Unit 8200 is a leader in high technology warfare. It’s actually widely believe that’s where the Struxnet worm was created. If so maybe they did the world a favour?
The West scrambling to bolster its capabilities
The US has, for instance, set up Cyber Command to coordinate its ability to withstand an attack. Britain has Cyber Security Operations based at GCHQ, as well as Ministry of Defence and Cabinet Office units to guard the national infrastructure.
A new cyber warfare strategy in the US will most likely mean that Nato will have to devise its own rules or response to cyber-attacks. The alliance need to examine whether or not its principle of collective defence will apply to online warfare as well.
Iran, not least because of Struxnet, is also believed to have assembled a cyber warfare crack team. Am sure that not only Iran but North Korea and other such states are at the minimum starting to build up units that can conduct cyber attacks. So it’s high time for the rest of the world to seriously increase online safety. The time when systems for gas, electricity and water didn’t need to be protected are long gone. So the rest of the world needs to wake up and follow in Israel’s footsteps. Better late than never.
Hackers, usually learn their skills engaging in illegal activity as teenagers. However, most of them are not hardened criminals. They really have a lot to offer all countries when it comes to defence against cyber warfare, or going on the offensive against an enemy. In my opinion we should all follow in Israel’s footsteps and offer our hackers a choice of going to jail or work for the state. Do you agree with me or do you have a better idea of how we can defend ourselves against cyber attacks, and hackers in general, for that matter?
photo: José Goulão – Flickr