Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pentagon says "Cyber Attacks Can Count as Acts of War"

On the surface it might seem like a "giant leap for mankind". The Pentagon has finally acknowledged what many of us have long believed (and known) to be true - Cyber attacks are every bit as dangerous, if not more, as any other conventional attack and should be counted as an act of war.

Isn't it about time?

It's a well known fact that no other country has the capability to match our (U.S.) armed forces - air, land, or sea. However, in recent years a fourth dimension - Cyber Space - has come into prominence where we are highly vulnerable for at least two key reasons:

1. The barriers to entry for establishing the capability and conducting cyber warfare are significantly less than those for the same capabilities in the conventional warfare, which is where many Eastern European countries and others such as China can reap huge benefits from relatively little capital investment and their huge numbers of math, science, and computer scientists.

2. Our heavy reliance on our extremely sophisticated, connected, and converged data and utility networks makes us more vulnerable to the same cyber attack that we could carry out on a another country that is far less reliant on their cyber networks.

Pentagon's announcement comes on the heels of an admission by Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman, Geng Yansheng, in a briefing in Xinhua. The elite unit - part of China's People's Liberation Army - is called the "cyber blue team" and will supposedly not only protect Chinese networks from external cyber attack but could also be utilized as a first strike, offensive mechanism in warfare. According to the Channel 4 news story, governments and companies around the world are already concerned that their networks come under regular attack from Chinese hackers. In February, for example, Chinese hackers targeted multinational energy firms to steal information, in an attack called "Night Dragon.

In my opinion, the Pentagon has been slow to react to the cyber threats that have existed for a while. There are numerous examples of cyber warfare having been used in the past decade. So why the lethargic response from the Pentagon? All I can say is it's "better late than never." The announement from the Pentagon yesterday formalizing cyber attacks as an act of war is definitely a step in the right direction as is the establishment of a new cyber command last year, headed by the director of the National Security Agency, to consolidate military network security and attack efforts.

These are great first steps but we still have a long way to go in protecting ourselves from cyber attacks. Cyber war is here to stay exposing us more than ever and it is up to us to be ready for it whether we like it or not.

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