What Do Sandy & Pearl Harbor Have In Common? Politicians Exploit Both To Push Cybersecurity Agendas
from the but-of-course dept
Defense Department boss Leon Panetta has been recycling his cyber Pearl Harbor ghost stories for a few years now to push for expansive cybersecurity legislation (i.e. budget and power to spy on people), but Pearl Harbor is a bit outdated these days. So why not shoot for a more contemporary reference? Why not something in the “now”? Well, Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano (who’s in a bit of a turf war with Panetta over who gets control — again, budget and power to spy on people — of “cybersecurity”) has decided to go with the most contemporary possible reference: Hurricane Sandy. Apparently, to Napolitano, the answer to the question of “how soon is it appropriate to cynically abuse the story of Hurricane Sandy for political gain?” is “right away.”
Napolitano, who, you may remember, doesn’t know how the internet works, went to a cybersecurity event on Wednesday to warn that without cybersecurity legislation, an attack might be just as bad as Hurricane Sandy. Quoting a report from Hillicon Valley:
After Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast, Napolitano said people should look than no further than the damage caused by the massive storm to understand the need to boost the nation’s cybersecurity protections.
“One of the possible areas of attack, of course, is attacks on our nation’s control systems — the control systems the operate our utilities, our water plants, our pipelines, our financial institutions,” Napolitano said. “If you think that a critical systems attack that takes down a utility even for a few hours is not serious, just look at what is happening now that Mother Nature has taken out those utilities.”
“The urgency and the immediacy of the cyber problem; the cyberattacks that we are undergoing and continuing to undergo can not be overestimated,” she said.
I’d say that it’s not so much the utility downtime that’s been the problem with Hurricane Sandy compared to, say, the wind and the copious amounts of water falling from the sky and piling up on the ground. Last I checked, that can’t be controlled via a computer (leaving wacky conspiracy theories aside).
As per usual, when it comes to cybersecurity threats, Napolitano (like pretty much every single other politician pushing for legislation) refused to get into specifics about how real any threat is — other than to make scary “be afraid, be very afraid!” noises. The one time she was asked about a specific threat, she immediately went vague, but in full-on FUD mode:
When asked by Post editor Mary Jordan about whether hackers are stealing information or money from banks, Napolitano answered “yes” and then quickly added, “I really don’t want to go into that per se.”
“All I want to say is that there are active matters going on with financial institutions,” she said.
Is it really so crazy to think that if the government is going to pass a bill that has broad implications for our privacy, they should at least come up with a legitimate and clear explanation for why it’s needed? Instead they toss out scare stories about hackers stealing money, planes falling from skies and utilities shutting down — without any proof that any of it is actually likely or possible.