Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cyber Warfare And Attacks

If cyber warfare and cyber-attacks are not on your list of modern worries, it is time you put them on. Either could make your life much more difficult or in a worse case scenario end it. A series of high-profile events since 2010 has highlighted the increasing and multifaceted threat of cyber-attacks. These include espionage hacks on Google and Western energy companies, the Stuxnet infiltration of Iranian nuclear sites, and the targeting of government networks.  U.S. cyber-security policy continues to evolve to meet these challenges, but critical gaps remain, including the incomplete protection of digital infrastructure vital to national security, such as power grids and financial networks. On a personal level having your accounts hacked, or having someone steal your identity can turn your life upside down.

Recently a $45 million bloodless bank heist that made the news has left even cybercrime experts impressed by the technical sophistication, if not the virtue, of the con artists who pulled off a remarkable internationally organized attack. "It was pretty ingenious," Pace University computer science professor Darren Hayes said Friday. A small team of highly skilled hackers penetrated bank systems, erased withdrawal limits on prepaid debit cards and stole account numbers. Then criminals used handheld devices to change the information on the magnetic strips of old hotel key cards, used credit cards and depleted debit cards, the network carried out thefts at ATMs in 27 countries. Law enforcement agencies from more than a dozen nations were involved in the investigation.

Now come allegations that Chinese hackers gained access to more than two dozen of America's most advanced weapons systems. A classified report by a group of civilian and government specialists who advise the Pentagon on military developments, says advanced weapons systems compromised by hackers include missiles, fighter jets, helicopters and naval ships. A leaked copy was recently published by the Washington Post. The Chinese government denies any involvement in the attacks that are the most serious of a series of issues creating friction between the US and China. Military analysts described the scale of the alleged attacks as breathtaking. Access to the designs would allow China to catch up on years of military development and save it billions of dollars at the same time it would also make it easier for China to develop weapons to counter US systems.

Cyber warfare generally refers to politically motivated hacking to conduct sabotage and espionage.  It is a form of information warfare sometimes seen as analogous to conventional warfare and in 2013 was, for the first time, considered a larger threat than Al Qaeda or terrorism, by many US intelligence officials.  US government security expert Richard Clarke, in his book Cyber War, defines "cyber warfare" as "actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation's computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption". This would include financial markets. William Lynn, US Deputy Secretary of Defense states that as a doctrinal matter, the Pentagon has formally recognized cyberspace as a new domain in warfare, they now feel it has become just as critical to military operations as land, sea, air and space. This is the kind of thing that movies have and will continue to be make about.

Be it from a form of warfare or crime, imagine a massive failure of the technology system, or the internet being corrupted and rendered useless, the effects would be devastating. Equipment could stop working over large areas and information would be lost or could not be retrieved. Just as bad would be the effect on society is if information was no longer correct and could no longer be trusted. The massive use of computers and technology is fairly new to mankind and has not stood the test of time that will prove it is built on a rock solid foundation that cannot be corrupted. The land of technology  has become a place where we currently place our most precious secrets, trusting them to be safe.  Just remember, even as efforts are made to lessen the risk, we remain vulnerable and hoards of attackers continue to amass. 

Footnote; You could put this in my "we live in a dangerous world" series, it is best never to feel to safe. The below post continues on that theme, 

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