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Massive Cyberattacks Like Hacking The Weather?

from the which-is-a-bigger-worry? dept

For years, fear mongerers from industry and government have been warning about the growing threat of "cyberwar" and "cyberattacks" where hackers would totally take down important critical systems that rely on the internet. The reality, however, is that it's not so easy for hackers to do this. In fact it's been exceedingly rare that hack attacks cause huge problems, taking down critical systems on a massive basis (though, they can do plenty of localized damage). Instead, as the NY Times notes, it seems that all of the big computing disasters lately have much more to do with overly complex computing systems, where some bug triggers a catastrophic failure. The article mentions things like the recent United Airlines computer problems and the recent Skype downtime, both of which were attributed to computer failures rather than malicious attacks (though, there's some debate over how true those explanations are). One of the most interesting points made in the article is that the complexity of many computing systems has reached such a level that pinpointing problems is a lot more like forecasting the weather than anything else. You have some general idea of where the problems might occur, but there's a lot of guesswork involved. Of course, it could be that this level of complexity is exactly why hacking attacks haven't been able to bring down most major systems. It's the same thing as the various (failed) attempts to control the weather. There are just too many variables to deal with.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    sj, Sep 12th, 2007 @ 6:55pm

    hackers can control the weather?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    sj, Sep 12th, 2007 @ 6:56pm

     

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  3.  
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    RandomThoughts, Sep 12th, 2007 @ 7:06pm

    How do we know what our govt. and others are capable of? Its not like China or Russia would take something down to test it.

     

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  4.  
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    Anthony, Sep 12th, 2007 @ 7:39pm

    Ineternet and the gov.

    something tells me that the day in bbs'es were better, atleast they were run by the people.

     

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  5.  
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    steve, Sep 12th, 2007 @ 8:08pm

    thanks

    sj thanks for your spam link

     

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  6.  
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    Please don't, Sep 12th, 2007 @ 8:12pm

    why

    why say they can't/or have not,or oh it is to hard for them. lets not give them a challange. they feed on Proving us wrong.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2007 @ 8:57pm

    Complexity usually entails a great deal of interdependent subsystems. That's why, in general, the more complex a system is, the easier it is to take down.

    One example is big cities. They are easy to "cripple" by breaking a seemingly insignificant part - like garbage collection, or traffic lights, elevators, etc.

    One exception is the internet, which was designed specifically to work around damaged parts of itself.

    Besides, the problem of cyberattacks isn't that someone would take down the internet, it is that they could get information, plant misinformation, and break small parts of large systems.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2007 @ 11:11pm

    Re: AC

    Yes, I think the real fear is that enough small things taken down could cripple us. Still, I think "cripple" is relative. People can knuckle down and do things the old fashioned way still. It'd hurt, but whoever inflicted that act of war on us would be punished severely and we wouldnt be too preoccupied with our survival to cheer it on.

     

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  9.  
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    Security Observer, Sep 13th, 2007 @ 4:00am

    RE: Random Thoughts Sep 12

    Check out http://www.wired.com/politics/security/magazine/15-09/ff_estonia It may not be as impossible as we would like to believe.

     

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  10.  
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    RandomThoughts, Sep 13th, 2007 @ 6:58am

    RE Security Observer

    Good article SO, I had seen that before.

    Here is a question. How do we know that Intel or AMD (or both) have not already put in place a way for any Internet connected computer to allow access (a backdoor) built into them? How do we know that Google doesn't do funky things from their toolbar? Skype from deep within its code providing the ability for access?

     

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  11.  
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    Security Observer, Sep 13th, 2007 @ 9:14am

    Re: RE Security Observer

    Yep. Who watches the watchers? A classic question. Having spent many years in the security industry and having deep involvement in the development side I can say that most corporations don't have (official)time for non-revenue generating tasks and they distrust requests from the government agencies, but that doesn't preclude a skunk-works project or an agency mole in the development group.

     

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  12.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Sep 13th, 2007 @ 10:38am

    Re #9

    Yep, that was the first thing that came to mind.
    I started looking for the specific article to link to it, but was also reading comments here and noticed you already pointed to it.
    It seems not overly hard for the hacker elites with the ginormous botnets to take stuff out.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2007 @ 8:26am

    Link to InfoWorld article:
    September 13, 2007
    Russian hackers corrupt U.S. consulate site

    http://weblog.infoworld.com/zeroday/archives/2007/09/russian_hackers.html?source=rss

    So, it's not a problem? Get serious!

     

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  14.  
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    Mike (profile), Sep 16th, 2007 @ 12:50pm

    Re:

    So, it's not a problem? Get serious!

    Er. We didn't say it wasn't a problem, but it's not the type of problem that the fear mongerers keep talking about: taking down major infrastructure. This was a minor hack that installed trojans. That's not taking down significant infrastructure... it's just a nuisance.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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