Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A daker side of application and human behavior

In DC today at a security conference (Gartner) – and this has prompted the following - I use this blog explore the symmetry between applications and their human progenitors – today’s posting focuses on a darker side – the military, terrorism and war.

I have just left a presentation led by David Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent for The New York Times. He focuses more broadly on foreign policy, globalization, nuclear proliferation, and the presidency – today’s discussion was on Cyber threats rather than nuclear or trade.

Applications are now soldiers, terrorists, saboteurs and secret agents.

Did you know that denial of service attacks (techniques for bringing down phone, power, broadcast and financial networks) are now a standard tactic in every army’s war book?

Just as air bombing is standard before a land battle begins, so are denial of service attacks.
  • Estonia experienced a devastating cyberattack in 2007 following a decision to move a statue memorializing Russian soldiers who fought during World War II. Pro-Russian hackers took down bank and school websites on Estonian networks.
  • Russia used denial of service attacks before attacking Georgia last year.
  • And earlier this week, Iranian news websites and those belonging to political organizations were hit following the contested re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Did you know that the US power grids and financial markets are continuously probed searching for weaknesses to be exploited at some future date?

…and guess what? Unlike human terrorists, you cannot easily determine their origin. We have no borders to protect. And even when you find the source (computers) that are launching these attacks – they are rarely in the country of origin (Russia’s attack against Georgia emanated from Turkey). How do you think Turkey would feel if Georgia bombed Turkey to defend itself?

If you haven’t already heard, Obama will soon be appointing a “Cyber Czar” – and before you buy in to some hack (the media equivalent of a computer hacker) complaining that we should be focusing on “the real threats” overseas, our economy, etc. remember your history – think of The Maginot Line – and be grateful that we have a president that actually uses computers and understands their role as the literal “work horse” of the 21st century and, now, the emergence of an entirely new “military front.”

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