David Kirkpatrick

April 8, 2010

Cyberwar food for thought

The CIO.com daily newsletter had a lot of cyberwar coverage today, and there’s plenty to think about when contemplating the future of national security.

Here’s highlights from three articles.

First up, is the U.S. the most at-risk nation in the world vis-a-vis cyber attack? Facts on the ground ought to give a little pause.

From the link:

Although the United States likely has the best cyberwar capabilities in the world, “that offensive prowess cannot make up for the weaknesses in our defensive position,” one-time presidential advisor Richard Clarke argues in his forthcoming book Cyber War.

Clarke — who served as special advisor to the president for cybersecurity in 2001 and now teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School for Government and works at Good Harbor Consulting — fears that any outbreak of cyber warfare would spill over into more violent conflict.

“Far from being an alternative to conventional war, cyber war may actually increase the likelihood of the more traditional combat with explosives, bullets and missiles,” Clarke writes in his book, which is due out April 20.

Next up, when the cyber attack happens here, what’s the chain-of-command and other protocols? Not as easy to answer as I’d like because of the widespread nature of cyber attack and the likely integral involvement of private enterprise. It’s akin to bombing a factory without the obvious military-based response.

From the link:

Because possible return fire could come from traditional military, intelligence, diplomatic or economic agencies — and perhaps even from private business — the United States needs a set of policies and procedures for cyberwarfare that are still in the making, experts say.

The president’s top cyber adviser, Howard Schmidt, has said in interviews that the responsibility for cybersecurity is a shared responsibility between public and private sectors. And within the government it will be shared among government agencies but not in a well-defined way. “Who’s in charge?” asks Jamie Sanbower, the director of security for Force 3, an integrator that works with the federal government. “That’s the number-one challenge we’re facing right now.”

And finally more analysis of the Google/China issue, and does it signal the beginning of a public cyberwarefare age? If nothing else, with a very concrete example to turn to, expect a lot more mainstream coverage of cyberwar issues

From the final link:

Many see the attacks as evidence that the U.S. is already in the midst of an undeclared cyberwar, with attacks against government targets estimated to have more than doubled in the past two years. Just last week, a top FBI official called cyberattacks an “existential threat” to the U.S. On Friday, two U.S. senators now pushing cybersecurity legislation in Congress reiterated those sentiments.

And Mike McConnell the former director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and director of national intelligence during the Bush administration, recently said in a Washington Post (WPO) column that the U.S is not only fighting such a war, it’s also losing the battle.

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