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[ISN] All's Fair In Love And Cyberwar (fwd)
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 15 Mar 1999 22:44:20 -0700 (MST)
From: mea culpa <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: InfoSec News <email@example.com>
Subject: [ISN] All's Fair In Love And Cyberwar
Forwarded From: Simon Taplin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
(Taken from TechWeb News Monday - No URL available)
All's Fair In Love And Cyberwar
By Jeffrey R. Harrow, TechWeb contributor
The year is 2010, when "computers are the new superpowers, and those who
control them control the world. To enforce the Net laws, Congress creates
the ultimate computer security agency within the FBI: Net Force."
This quote is from a new Tom Clancy novel I'm reading called Net Force,
and as you might expect, the book explores some interesting territory. For
example, one of its technology projections is the Virtual Global Interface
Link, or virgil. The virgil is the size of a pack of cigarettes and
combines the services of a computer, GPS, phone, clock, radio, television,
modem, credit card, camera, scanner, and fax into one consumer-
electronics device as common as today's pocket cell phones.
Of course, the virgil is clearly still science fiction (even as its
individual elements are just as clearly converging in that direction), so
let's return to the present. Let's explore beyond the virgil and think
about a Net Force-like story line.
Imagine a plot beginning with a coordinated series of cyberattacks
targeting some of the United States' most sensitive intelligence and
military data, such as the CIA's Office of Science and Weapons Research
and the National Security Agency's (NSA) Infowar Support Center. The
cyberattacks would also target computers at Kelly Air Force Base in Texas,
including those of the Air Intelligence Agency, the Air Force Information
Warfare Center, and a joint chiefs of staff command-and-control operation.
We'd add some spice to the story line by making this a long-term attack
spanning several months, with a hundred incidents per day originating from
around the globe. Of course, we'd want to add some realism to our story
with quotes from highly placed officials, such as:
"The [Defense Department] is experiencing fairly sophisticated challenges
right now," says John Harme, Deputy Secretary of Defense. Also, "What is
clear is the attacks were coordinated," says Steven Northcutt, head of the
intrusion center at the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center.
These comments lead to observations that "an attack on American cyberspace
is an attack on the United States, just as much as a landing on New
Jersey. The notion that we could respond with military force against a
cyberattack has to be accepted," as quoted from Richard Clarke, terrorism
coordinator at the National Security Council.
We might see media analysis of the events, such as, "Officials said the
attacks were coordinated to increase the stealth and firepower of the
perpetrators and were difficult to detect because they were planted in a
large volume of identical traffic that is too massive to process without
specialized techniques," sources such as MSNBC say.
And public leaders might raise awareness: "It's not a matter of if America
has an electronic Pearl Harbor -- it's a matter of when," says Curtis
Weldon, U.S. House of Representatives.
Would this set the stage for an interesting piece of fiction?
Umm -- there's a little problem. It seems a story along these lines would
have to be labeled "history" -- not "fiction." This is because everything
other than that first quote about the Net Force comes directly from the
news -- not from the novel.
According to the March 5 ZDNet News, while this may read like the next Net
Force plot, a real Navy report titled "Internet Threat Briefing -- Stealth
and Coordinated Probes and Attacks" demonstrates cyberterrorism is
evolving to a high and potentially very serious art form today. The good
news is detection schemes are getting better. And reality is following
Clancy's fiction, with the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA "quietly setting
up cyberwar early-warning operations."
Where could unchecked cyberterrorism lead beyond the loss of sensitive
data? "I'm talking about people shutting down a city's electricity,
shutting down 911 systems, shutting down telephone networks and
transportation systems," says Harme. "You black out a city, people die.
Black out lots of cities, lots of people die. It's as bad as being
attacked by bombs."
That's a pretty grim picture, and it helps us understand why President
Clinton has proposed $1.5 billion to address such threats head-on.
The rapidly changing face of computing constantly brings us new
technologies, new ways to work, and new ways to play -- but it also opens
new threats. In our increasingly cybercentric business and social world,
such threats cannot go ignored.
Jeffrey Harrow is a senior consulting engineer for the corporate strategy
and technology group at Compaq. A more extensive version of this
discussion, as well as other discussions about the innovations and trends
of contemporary computing, are available online. His opinions do not
necessarily reflect the opinions of Compaq.
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