Security Corner

Feb 28 2013   3:06PM GMT

The real threat is cyber-warfare, not nukes

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

I heard an interesting commentary on AM 700 WLW, “The Nation’s Station,” today by their military analyst, Colonel Dean Smittle (U.S. Army, USAF, Ret.) He says that the real threat to our national security is not nuclear attacks, but cyber-attacks, and the country to look out for is China. You’ll want to jump to about the 21-minute mark on the podcast.

My reason for posting this is that I said cyber-warfare was going to be the big threat. Here’s an excerpt from my article “Will You Be Used as a Weapon Against Your Own Country?

It’s 2010, maybe sooner. A rogue nation has just declared war on your country. No one will be killed in this war, at least not directly. But people will die from starvation, disease, and in the general chaos caused by disruption in vital communications lines. The rogue nation’s primary weapon? Botnetscapable of taking down huge segments of the Internet and telephone networks.

Such a weapon is already being used in cyber attacks against EstonianWeb sites, as reported by SANS: “The ongoing cyber attacks against Estonian Web sites, covered in a recent NewsBites edition should serve as a sobering reminder that Cyber Warfare is not a theoretical threat but a very effective and real one…”

Having made my own observation of the shifting threats to computer and network security, I have to agree with SANS editor Skoudis: “Before 2003, our dominant threats were hobbyists and insiders. In 2003 and 2004, the threat then changed to organized crime looking to make money. Depending on the geopolitical environment, the dominant threat may shift again, and very quickly, to state-sponsored cyber warfare.”

What’s ironic is that the attacker will, to some degree, be using your own people – as well as your allies – against you. There’s certainly a good number of people in every country whose computers have become zombies in a botnet. The actual attackers are virtually untraceable, so unless the attacker makes himself known, you’ll not even know your enemy. Scary.

Stuxnet was a good example of an actual attack on another country’s infrastructure. Listen to the podcast. I need not say more.

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