More Companies Looking To Cash In On So-Called 'Cyber War'; Press Buys Questionable Claims

from the fact-checks? dept

We've been discussing the manufactured buzz around the concept of a "cyberwar," despite the lack of any real evidence of anything beyond some typical espionage efforts with a bit of vandalism thrown in for color. However, for the companies building up the buzz, it's proving to be quite profitable, and it appears others are rushing to get in on the gravy train -- and they're using the unquestioning press to push the claim along. Take, for example, this Reuters article, that is all about how British aerospace/defense contractor giant BAE is now trying to cash in on the US government's new obsession with "cyberwar." The article opens in a cinematic fashion:
Threats to sensitive computer networks lurk everywhere and with a few mouse clicks, organized criminals and hackers could shut down vital networks that run the U.S. government, industry and military.
Source for that? None. Details? None. Evidence? None. Explanation for why vital networks that run the U.S. government and military are connected to the open internet? None. Explanation for why if all it takes is a few mouse clicks, no one has actually taken down these networks yet? None. In fact, that opening is never revisited or explained. Instead, it's taken for granted along with what's effectively a press release for BAE's new "cyber center" in (of course) Washington DC. If this keeps up, perhaps Techdirt will need to open a "cyberwar" division just to cash in on this hype.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 7:53am

    You're getting warmer, Mike...

    "However, for the companies building up the buzz, it's proving to be quite profitable..."

    What do we always say around here? That just throwing the word cyber in front of something doesn't change anything right? So, to that end, a couple of things to consider:

    1. Who owns these companies? And I don't mean publically, I mean who owns them by sitting on their boards, or which banks hold their debt and bank accounts? Who loans them money? Ultimately, who is going to profit off of this?

    2. Is there any reason to believe that this type of thing only happens in this elusive cyberwar? Why are we willing to believe that a cyberwar has been dreamed up and/or deliberately constructed by those that want to profit from it, but not physical warfare? Who funded and helped to create Hitler? Who funded and helped to create communist Russia? Who profited from those wars? Since the war on terror began, have the richest in the world gotten more rich, or poorer? Has the disparity in wealth between the rich and the poor increased or decreased?

    I believe in the answers to those questions you will find the impetus for true anger and revolution....

     

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  2.  
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    Hoeppner, May 27th, 2010 @ 8:00am

    Actually the defense of the real military networks gets pretty darn close to the Internet. Though the closest it gets are two computers sharing the same desk. They aren't even allowed to share the same monitor, much less is there such a thing as a storage medium that ever comes in contact with both the computers.

     

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  3.  
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    jfgilbert (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 8:01am

    "Press Buys Questionable Claims"?

    I think the correct statement is that the Press sells the questionable claims to the public.

     

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  4.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 8:10am

    Re: "Press Buys Questionable Claims"?

    Correct. Now why do you think they would want to do that?

     

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  5.  
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    Fletcher, May 27th, 2010 @ 8:11am

    Cybersecurity Blanket

    There's a push to expand the cyberwar efforts beyond military infrastructure.

    This article dated May 10th describes passing of the Executive Cyberspace Authorities Act of 2010, which allows witholding of federal funds if the cyberspace director thinks a given agency isn't spending enough on cybersecurity:

    http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/news/article/0,289142,sid14_gci1512153,00.htm l

    And this article dated May 27th describes the Defense Deputy Secretary's desire to allow Defense Department network protection systems to also cover private sector finance and utility operations:

    http://www.govinfosecurity.com/articles.php?art_id=2581

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 8:29am

    Re: Re: "Press Buys Questionable Claims"?

    Because angry debt-slaves decreases quarterly profits.

     

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  7.  
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    keven sutton, May 27th, 2010 @ 8:31am

    Re: You're getting warmer, Mike...

    Mostly just for your entertainment value dark:

    Watch what Happens when I add cyber to your sentences.

    Who owns these Cyber-companies? And I don't mean publicly, I mean who owns them by sitting on their Cyber-boards, or which Cyber-banks hold their Cyber-debt and Cyber-bank accounts? Who loans them Cyber-money? Ultimately, who is going to profit off of this?

    See? now the sentence sounds edgy and cool. totally different.

     

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  8.  
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    Jeff, May 27th, 2010 @ 8:38am

    Fear

    I think FDR said it best, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

    They create the fear that the nukes will start flying or the power grid will crash because the US govt has the servers open to the web because of lax security, and get the public to fear it, then they get their representatives involved and it just spirals from there! There are too many "sheeple" out there that believe anything that is on the news, because you know the news is always truthful and honest, right?!?
    So they use the press to feed the fear, thus getting the govt to throw more money to them to fix the thing causing the fear. Since when did the press have to actually have hard facts to publish a story.

    /sarcon
    I vote yes for the Techdirt "cycberwar" division. You know you have got to keep us informed of the terrorists and anti-US govts that are taking over the pcs of all the Americans and are about to launch a full scale invasion and war on us!!!! To ARMS!!!!!
    /sarcoff

     

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  9.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 8:40am

    Re: Re: You're getting warmer, Mike...

    Perhaps I should give the same treatment to the novel I'm currently working on ;)

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 8:54am

    If this keeps up, perhaps Techdirt will need to open a "cyberwar" division just to cash in on this hype.

    I say go for it. Establish yourself as someone who helps to debunk the claims of all the greedy companies and offer real, useful advise that the government can use.

     

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  11.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 9:06am

    Re: Fear

    "I think FDR said it best, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.""

    Clash this incredbly insightful statement with the Governor of Arizona's recent request to the federal government for both National Guard helicopters and Predator drones to help enforce the Arizona border.

    What a sight that would be, to be an Arizona citizen walking down the street and see an armed drone flying over your head followed by a couple of Blackhawks....

     

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  12.  
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    Jeff, May 27th, 2010 @ 9:20am

    Re: Re: Fear

    Maybe they are thinking about the vets coming home from war. So they can feel right at home, and still living in a war zone.

     

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  13.  
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    out_of_the_blue, May 27th, 2010 @ 9:32am

    You're still living in the 20th century.

    When there was something of independent press. Now all the "mainstream" press is simply part of the "Ministry of Truth". If you can get over being shocked at individual incidents, you might see the overarching merger of gov't and corporations.

     

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  14.  
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    NAMELESS.ONE, May 27th, 2010 @ 10:35am

    if your stupid and in govt and you know it

    raise your hand

    cause if your stupid in govt and you really want to show it
    RAISE YOUR HAND

    yea put sensitive crap accessable to the net thats a good idea
    maybe instead build yourselves a closed network OH WAIT
    YOU HAVE ONE

    so the fuss?
    its aimed at stopping freedom of speech and curtailing the hacker movement thats growing world wide in response to the USA destroying peoples civil rights with IP laws world wide

    PLAIN simple and to the point.
    YOU KNOW I LOVE CAPS TOO

     

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  15.  
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    Darryl, May 27th, 2010 @ 1:08pm

    "What attacks", oh my, dont get out much ?

    "Threats to sensitive computer networks lurk everywhere and with a few mouse clicks, organized criminals and hackers could shut down vital networks that run the U.S. government, industry and military. "


    Um... Where does the word "internet" appear in that statement, is says "computer networks", and vital networks, that means SCADA systems, satellite control systems, MILITARY and Government networks, business networks and so on..

    All "vital computer systems", you might work out one day that there is a whole world beyond just the "innernet".

    And again, you are showning a complete lack of knowledge, and really irresponsibility to play down what is a clear, and existing and continuous threat.

    As I said before, it's not just about public web pages being defaced, it's about stealing information, disrupting operations, and causing problems.

    If the US CIA, sell a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) control system, and software to Russia, that was booby trapped to fair at a certain time in the future, and it does fail and it causes a massive gas pipeline explosion and kills lots of people, would you call that an attacking using computers and computer networks.

    A SCADA system is a computer network, and there are more SCADA system processors than there are humans on earth, they control just about every aspect of you're life, they control you're car, you're trains, you're electricity, water, sewage, gas, fuel, air-conditional, freakin everything.

    And you dont think you're water supply, electricity, car, train, plain, gas supply are not critical infrastructures.

    BTW: there are many many examples of computer networks that are vital being broken into or compromised by hackers and cybercriminals.

    There is a whole world outside of the "net".

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/10/31/hacker_jailed_for_revenge_sewage/

    I worked with this person, and help catch him, but not before he did a great amount of damage.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2000/04/27/russia_welcomes_hack_attacks/


    http://www.the register.co.uk/2004/08/16/power_grid_cybersecurity/

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/09/25/abb_c ritical_bug/


    "Washington (dbTechno) - A British man, 42-year old Gary McKinnon, lost an appeal this week, and will now likely be extradited to the United States. He is the hacker who managed to hack his way into the Pentagon and NASA."

    I could probably easily sit here for the next 24 hours and constantly post examples (that you claim do not exist, for want of looking) of cyberwar type attacks, and their effects on the industries it affects.

    This say "problem, what problem" is one of the poorest examples of "journalism" ive ever seen.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 1:09pm

    it's the hallmark of immature security professionals. The constant barrage of fear surrounding the "smart grid" is the same. Companies who can't get business from their skill and knowledge trump up some issue as a serious problem then claim to have all the expertise to fix said problem. The only correct answer is to simply refuse to work with these types. Any security professional who resorts to FUD to sell their services is an incompetent security person. I work for a fairly large retailer and we refuse to work with companies like IOActive and Accuvant because their sales people are constantly trying to scare us into buying their services. It has been our experience that smaller firms often have a more realistic approach to security.

     

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  17.  
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    Darryl, May 27th, 2010 @ 2:15pm

    'Typical' espionage and vandalism !

    "real evidence of anything beyond some typical espionage efforts with a bit of vandalism thrown in for color."

    you can almost see you're thought process working here, in the use of the word "typical", all the options to play down espionage and vandalism,

    Hmm, "innocent espionage"
    or "harmless espionage and vandalism"
    (ok, ill go with typical).

    For a start espionage and vandalism are two completely seperate things, typical vandalism might be something low level like tagging a wall with paint, but there is little in the way of typical espionage.

    It's like saying "typical" theft, or typical murder, it does not make it any better if it's "typical" or not, it's still a crime.

    So if I was pissed off with the US (and ofcourse no one is ever pissed off with the US). I might direct some of my agents to go to Hoover dam, with radio's and radio modems, and hacked the DNP network protocol of the Dam's SCADA network, find the connect control channel for the flood gate motors, and the overflow alarm, set up my two-way radio in the middle of the 2 network nodes (man in the middle attack), and using more RF power than the base state, command the Dam's flood gate PLC's to drive the motors fully open, and keep them open until they burn out.

    Thus releasing billions of tons of water and washing away LasVagas.

    It's nowhere near the internet, but it's cyber terrorism, or cyber war just as effective as flying 747's into a building. Something else the US does not like having done to it, that it did not expect, until it was too late.

    So you think it's a bad idea to have people thinking about possible vectors for attacks on computers systems, I find that a very very unusualy position to take, considering the world we actually live in, (well most of us).

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 2:26pm

    Re: "What attacks", oh my, dont get out much ?

    Um... Where does the word "internet" appear in that statement, is says "computer networks", and vital networks...

    OK then, suppose you tell us exactly which "vital" military networks are subject to outsiders shutting them down "with a few mouse clicks". Go on, we're waiting...

    A SCADA system is a computer network, and there are more SCADA system processors than there are humans on earth, they control just about every aspect of you're life, they control you're car, you're trains, you're electricity, water, sewage, gas, fuel, air-conditional, freakin everything.

    You left out calculators, microwave ovens, refrigerators and wristwatches, to name a few more. That still doesn't amount to "warfare". You exaggerate in the same way the MPAA does about copyright infringement putting corn farmers out of business.

    This say "problem, what problem" is one of the poorest examples of "journalism" ive ever seen.

    So who's claiming "journalism"? You don't even seem to know what site you're posting on.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 2:41pm

    Re: 'Typical' espionage and vandalism !

    I might direct some of my agents to go to Hoover dam, with radio's and radio modems, and hacked the DNP network protocol of the Dam's SCADA network, find the connect control channel for the flood gate motors, and the overflow alarm, set up my two-way radio in the middle of the 2 network nodes (man in the middle attack), and using more RF power than the base state, command the Dam's flood gate PLC's to drive the motors fully open, and keep them open until they burn out.

    I might could do even better than that. I might could use psychic powers to take over the minds of the people who run the dam and make *them* open the floodgates! And then I might take over the mind of the president and start WWIII! So you see, psychics are the biggest threat in the world!

     

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

  20.  
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    Eponymous, May 27th, 2010 @ 3:01pm

    Computer security 101...

    Rule 1: If a computer network/information is that vital to national security, it should not be connected to the internet. It should be physically isolated.

    Rule 2: If a computer network/information is vital and has a reason to be connected to the internet, see Rule 1.

     

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

  21.  
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    chris (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 9:45pm

    Re: "What attacks", oh my, dont get out much ?

    If the US CIA, sell a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) control system, and software to Russia, that was booby trapped to fair at a certain time in the future, and it does fail and it causes a massive gas pipeline explosion and kills lots of people, would you call that an attacking using computers and computer networks.

    *yawn*

    that's just spies doing spy stuff that happens to involve computers, i.e. "some typical espionage efforts" as described in the article.

    this hype makes "cyber warfare" sound like some scary new thing that has spawned from the net itself. it's not.

    businessmen use computers and networks to do business, it's only natural that spies and criminals would start using them too. therefore, the intelligence and law enforcement communities should learn to use computers and networks as well to catch the bad guys they are supposed to protect us from. nothing more to see here, move along.

    there are two varieties of computer crimes: crimes where a computer or network is the target, and crimes where a computer or network is an instrument in the commission of a crime.

    your SCADA scenario is the latter, not the former. it's still sabotage, it's just sabotaging a computer instead of some other part of the gas line system. big freaking deal.

     

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  22.  
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    Darryl, May 28th, 2010 @ 3:29am

    However you do it, is has to be done.

    " I might could use psychic powers to take over the minds of the people who run the dam and make *them* open the floodgates! "

    Go for it, but the number of successful 'psychic' attacks Vs the Number of real and successful Scada computer system attacks means if you actually want to get the job done, It would be wise to do something that is KNOWN to work.

    Sure, you can try to get to outer space, by building a HUGE ladder, but you're chances of success are not high.

    All I was saying, is that these attacks are allready common, they will increase, they often have nothing to do with military systems, or the internet and they have the potential of doing huge damage.

    And you would be stupid to ignore the possible threat, or write it off as "typical".

    It's not even like it's anything new, this is an old and common problem, and like everything in the IT world it evolves with systems. And the countermeasures as well have to evolve, and it's right for the government to ensure a certain level of security and confidence that all the various services and human functions and commerce work on a day to day basis.

    And if they did not take the proper precautions then they would be liable for damages for not doing so.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2010 @ 10:11am

    I vote yes for the Techdirt "cycberwar" division.

    I like it, too. Put it on cyberwar.techdirt.com and give it an olive drab background with a diagonal "CYBERWAR" watermark in a GI Joe-looking font. It would have all the same content as the regular techdirt, but I'd look much cooler reading it at work.

     

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

  24.  
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    Jerry, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 5:19pm

    Very interesting claims!

    That was a nice read =) I'm wondering how a reputable source such as Reuters can push this kind of articles to the public. It's so obvious that someone paid them to do it.

     

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


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