Ed.: 031618 – Words: 1119 – Audio: N/A
The recent news that the Russians have been probing our power grid infrastructure and water distribution on top of the revelations of their meddling in our election process via computer brings to the forefront the concern for our cyber security. Now, it’s not that the country has nothing in place for meeting this threat but it’s more like, is it up to the task.
The United States Cyber Command was set up as a separate military command activity under Obama back in 2009… and it appears this is our first line of defense, at least on the federal level. I am not a computer geek by any stretch so I do not know just what or how exactly this command functions. According to Wiki there are some concerns that maybe the command does not go far enough, at least in regards to offensive measures.. and who exactly along the command structure makes those decisions. Right off the top of my head, and using some common sense from my own military experience (the mindset, not technology), I would like to assume there are all these things in operation. But.. I also put my faith in the CIA to go along with the Iraq War. So, here’s my own concerns.
Point One –
Cyber attacks are NOT some goddamned game. While on the surface we agree to that theory in actual practice few are serious about future threats and this becoming the new battleground… exactly as the ballistic missile nuclear threat came into importance 60 years ago. Mentally we are still conditioned to think of cyber as providing more entertainment than serious threat so there has been little priority among our lawmakers to devote attention (money). Why? Honestly, I do think it’s an “age thing”; Congress is still made up of a lot of older folks who barely understand bytes and bits. The extent of our Dear President’s understanding… and he’s 70+ in age… is how to tweet. This may overlap into our military as the people in charge there, the generals and admirals, are old people as well. These folks function well for head-on combat against a human foe they can see.. but might be less than enthusiastic about shifting some priority to fighting what amounts to electrons along a wire. So.. first problem… awareness of the problem of cyber threats being real by making everyone aware what exactly can be attacked… ie. the power grid, water distribution, unprotected military resources, government offices, cell phones, the new automobiles, etc.
Point Two –
I recall a year or so back some report on the apparent need to modernize our nation’s power grid network as it was very vulnerable to outside attack.. and not just cyber attack. It’s not impossible to imagine some nutcase using his private plane to kamikaze himself into a nuclear reactor. If necessary, we truly need to get our essential utility services protected and modernize for protection and monitoring our critical infrastructure. I reported recently that there is a huge risk with many of our commercial electronic devices, like phones, vehicles, etc. can have a foreign government insert into them at time of assembly programmed chips that can transmit call data, consumer marketing data, GPS, and even timed obsolescence code to make the thing slower or “break down”, forcing a new purchase.
Anything or anyone that tinkers with our national power grid, even if it’s limited to just a regional outage, the impact will be like an apocalypse. Literally and no joke.
Point Three –
Obviously any sort of international policy on cyber threats is lacking, but most importantly there is little, if any domestic policy on how to handle a response IF cyber attacked. Generally speaking most political and military responses to various threats and attacks are done “proportionally” during peacetime; you kill one of our guys, we kill one of yours. The real threat in past human history is simply to sneak up on your enemy to gain the advantage of your enemy’s unpreparedness. Pearl Harbor.. and 9/11 comes to mind. Cyber threats are by nature sneak attacks in all cases. There’s no secret buildup of manpower, no opposing force silently posed to attack along our borders. It’s someone sitting at a computer. This means the potential for cyber attack can be some lone wolf cyber-terrorist, or a nation. To add to that threat, that lone wolf could disguise himself as a nation in order to provoke another response… or a nation itself could disguise themselves as another nation. The scenarios of doom & gloom are seemingly endless in the cyber world. To even top that all off… cyber attacks could be set for future time (months? years?), to allow for the perpetrators to escape detection. If not already, we should establish a detection policy.. and.. a response policy… be it a political response or military. Then we need to make sure control of any sport of cyber response rests with the Pentagon and the White House as we would with nuclear decisions… with appropriate failsafe safeguards (computer code for responses should be compartmentalized so no one person can “accidentally” send their own agenda into the mix.
Point Four –
A military response to a cyber attack?? Of course. Example… we know the Russians have cyber-meddled with our election process and we now know they have tried messing with our power grid. If you ask me (and no one is, sadly) I would go to Defcon 4; bump up the war posture a notch to make the point (Defcon 4 does NOT mean inevitable war by any stretch). Let the military do what it needs to do within a Decon 4 alert status.. and the President can initiate certain national safeguards. Make the Russians.. and the world for that matter, realize that cyber-playing across national borders can result in a real world response. A cyber attack IS an attack. First step is to put the Russians on the public relations defensive. Then tell them we will unleash fire & fury throughout their own networks if they don’t stop.
(Politically I would encourage the Russians to join us in an international cyber peacekeeping effort.. an entity where we have joint personnel… to watch for threats. Then we might be able to keep watch on each other.)
We truly need to get into the game (and I use “game” here not to diminish the importance) and build a total response posture. Something IS going to happen.. it’s just a matter as to when.
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