Friday, December 16, 2011

Cyber attacks

This is one of those nights where my concentration is about as thin as a playing card.  But I try to post as close to daily as I can, so I'm here for you anyway.

Last night's Coast-to-Coast AM was all about cyber attacks.  That is to say, the use of computer hacking and viruses in a militaristic manner, taking out the various aspects of our day-to-day lives that are governed by computers...which is pretty much everything.
Seriously.  The electrical grid that allows you access to the Internet (yeah, yeah, at one point or another you're going to have to recharge your battery), the water that comes out of your faucet and flushes your toilet, the sewage treatment systems that take care of our shit (literally), and so on and so forth all the live long day.

Author and cyber security consultant Andrew Colarik was the guest on the program.  He had this to say on the subject of cyber attacks:
"We're getting, literally, thousands of attacks on all kinds of our infrastructure from all over the world," he declared, noting that the problem is under reported because it is so commonplace.
He went on to urge the nation to have an "open discussion" on the issue of cyber attacks. For example, the United States has yet to define what constitutes an "act of war" in terms of cyber strikes.  If a terrorist hacks someone's identity and uses it to enter the U.S. illegally an act of war?  That's open for discussion.

I once brought up the concept of cyber warfare in the company of Kip Haggis.  He told me, "I'm not worried about a bunch of terrorists hanging out in a cave in Afghanistan doing something like that."  Oh Kip.  Good luck improving your critical thinking skills and abrading the barnacles from your mind.  The kind of attacks that Mr. Colarik has been talking about can be done with a laptop from say, a hotel room in Switzerland.  That's just a location I pulled out of thin air but the truth could be far more banal than that.  More importantly, he is quite correct in pointing out that these kinds of cyber attacks are going on all the time and have been for many years.

During the first Gulf War, military intelligence released a virus into the defense computer systems of Iraq.  In The Hacker Crackdown, author Bruce Sterling writes about ace hackers that after being busted and charged were summarily swept into jobs inside the national security matrix.  Just recently, the Stuxnet computer virus damaged the centrifuge systems of Iran's nuclear program.  In what might be seen as a response, an Iranian electronic warfare engineer claims that Iran hacked the RQ-170 UAV drone that landed in that nation's custody.  The Iranians supposedly "spoofed" the drone into landing where they wanted it to by taking over its GPS system, making it think it was landing in Afghanistan, not Iran.

Welcome to the bold new frontier.  The next war will be conducted by salvos and volleys of zeroes and ones.

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