Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cyber War

The Next Threat To National Security And What To Do About It
Richard A. Clarke

Richard Clarke was the go to guy for counterterrorism on the National Security Council from the time of George H.W. Bush through the Clinton years and into the George W. Bush administration, which then made him their cyber security guy and ignored his advice. Cyber War is his attempt to tell the Obamanites and the general public what is at stake online and what he thinks should be done about it.

So what is at stake? According to Clarke, the entire electrical grid, including nuclear power plants, the telephone system, air traffic control, railroads, Wall Street, the U.S. Army, Navy Air Force and Marines are all vulnerable to attack via the internet. What he means is that every account in every bank could suddenly be reset to zero dollars; power plants could be made to overload themselves and break down, or melt down; aircraft could be made to collide in mid air; our hyper technological stealth aircraft could fall like stones from the sky; ships could become stranded, dead in the water.

Many countries have developed the ability to attack the infrastructure of potential opponents through respective internet systems. Clarke claims that the U.S. is the world leader in the development of offensive cyber weapons. The problem with that is that the U.S. is also the most vulnerable to attack by the cyber weapons of other nations and lags far behind countries like China in cyber defense capabilities, and some countries- North Korea springs to mind -  have hardly any dependence on the internet at all, yet are capable of devastating attacks on us. Because of the openness of our internet infrastructure and our ever increasing dependence on it for commerce, communication industry and even the military, we are sitting ducks.

The Defense Department has developed some capability to protect it's systems from attack, however, because it uses the trunk lines of the civilian internet to connect it's world spanning operations, those systems are still vulnerable. There is no one in government who takes responsibility to defend the civilian internet from attack. The FBI investigates some cyber crime, after the fact, and prosecutes some criminals, when they can be found. Businesses are supposed to provide their own protection. This includes even the Federal Reserve.

Clarke suggests a three pronged approach to hardening the internet in the U.S. First the major, trunk ISPs should be required to monitor traffic for signatures of cyber attack, using a "deep packet inspection system"; second, the electrical power grid should be secured, using a system parallel to the internet, but not connected t it, to control power stations, third, harden the systems of Department of Defense, using separate infrastructure and encryption to prevent interferance with our military capabilities.

Federal regulation would be needed to enforce compliance by the major ISPs and electrical systems. The political ramifications of additional Federal regulation of anything make all fo this a difficult sell, to say the least. Clarke wrote Cyber War in order to move the U. S. in this direction. Only if citizens are informed about the danger and the need for action, can politicians do what needs to be done to protect us from the possibility of a devastating attack. Good luck with that.

This post is in the 52nd

Book Review Blog Carnival


Labels: internet security, cyber war, Richard Clarke


  1. NSA, short for No Such Agency or National Security Agency does a fine job of defending the United States with Echelon and other systems. They just don't talk about it much.

  2. Echelon is a surveillance program and not a defense against cyber attack.


Comments will be moderated - so keep your comments moderate!

OpenID users will have their blog links again, yay!