While I believe that Brandon is directionally correct with his previous article on SOCOM’s lack of emphasis on cyber-terrorism, and I’ve tried to tip off our readers to emerging threats such as Duqu, I also want to take a few moments to cover the other side of this story. The flip side is that cyber-terrorism is being over hyped like it is nobody’s business. The reason for this is because the War on Terror is scaling down, the troops are coming home, budgets are going to get slashed, and even SOF units will be looking for a job in many instances. I’m not saying it will be as bad as the post-Vietnam years…but it is still going to get ugly.
With the war winding down, defense planners and corporations are also going to be looking for a job as well. This has some scary implications as many of them are going to look to apply what they learned from the War on Terror domestically by courting Law Enforcement agencies. I believe we’ve already seen this happening although bio-metrics still haven’t entered the mainstream as Americans have even rejected the idea of National ID cards time and time again.
Brave New World…of schizoid paranoia
The holy grail for many defense companies will be cyber-security, but to get into this field there first has to be a need. That need can be exaggerated or created. DHS is perfectly happy to help of course. Remember that industrial generator that they blew out as an example of what cyber-terrorists can accomplish? Those familiar with SCADA systems knew that DHS had manually bypassed numerous safety features and fail safes. Then Uncle Sam jumped the gun when that water pump went down, claiming that a hacker gummed up the works which also turned out to be false. It’s almost like they want cyber-terrorism to be a real and existential threat to Americans.
I’m not saying that cyber-terrorism, or cyber-war if you prefer, isn’t real. Far from it. I am very concerned about hackers making off with classified government files as well as secrets in regards to corporate proprietaries. However, this doesn’t mean we need to lock down the internet, pass ridicules legislation such as SOPA, or listen to anything Joe Lieberman has to say on the matter. I simply think we should take a measured approach to this issue.
Monkey See; Monkey Do
There is also another aspect of this issue that I never see discussed. We could forgo computer networks and other advanced communications systems and be done with the problem altogether but we’ve attached ourselves to this particular technology to the point that this is impossible. I’m not a Luddite, I just want to point out that our enemies have also attached themselves to this technology.
Think about this for a moment.
Terrorists have jumped all over digital communications and that means it is easier to track them, trace them, follow them, and even to kill them than ever before. It’s a double edged sword and shutting down the net via some of the proposed legislation out there also means our enemies go dark on commo nets that were once easily monitored. This is why America has a vested interest in helping to build telecommunication infrastructure across the Middle East and elsewhere.
Take a look at this article from Thomas Rid, it offers an extensive take down regarding the exaggerated threats of cyber-terrorism. Not one human KIA can be attributed to cyber-terrorism. Past cyber-attacks haven’t been nearly as apocalyptic as initial reports in the media made them out to be. Take a deep breath, man-bear-pig is not kicking down our door quite yet.
The only really successful infrastructure cyber-attack thus far has been Stuxnet, a computer virus that nearly all experts agree was created by a nation-state. Stuxnet is almost certainly a covert operation run by American and Israeli intelligence agencies so it seems that the defense establishment is using its own cyber-attack as a justification for a larger budget for cyber-security. Neat trick.
I’m in support of intelligent cyber-security measures, both defensive and offensive, but must admit that I’m somewhat disturbed by the direction that some want to take this field in. One day a country such as Russia or China could launch a cyber attack on America and that is something we should be prepared for. But before we all lose our heads, if we’ve got infrastructure that is this critical we should first make sure it is running from a control console that is not jacked into the internet or has USB plugs all over it.
Just a suggestion.