Cyber War: A One-Sided Battle Against A Trumped Up Enemy

from the what-is-it-good-for?--absolutely-nothin' dept

You would have to be a deaf and blind person with a penchant for head-burying to have missed the drum beats of a supposed cyber war the American government has been touting over the past year or so. It's a one-sided conversation that has been hyperbolic on a level normally associated with sketch comedy. Terms like "Cyber Pearl Harbor" are thrown around without any sense of historical context. In fact, many are questioning whether the entire production is simply a political game, with no real threat existing at all. Unfortunately, many more Americans have now incorporated this manufactured fear into their psyches. Still, the drum beat continues, with the United States labeling Iran as our chief enemy in this inevitable, or perhaps already occurring, cyber war.

The problem, of course, is that anyone who spends a couple minutes studying what's actually happening realizes that this is a one-sided war, likely started by the West, and our opponent is fighting against our tanks with pea-shooters.
The first shot was probably the release of Stuxnet sometime during or before 2009. Even though no one has officially claimed responsibility everyone knows who was behind it. Stuxnet hit with a bang and did a whole lot of damage to Iran's uranium-enrichment capabilities. The United States followed that up with Flame–the ebola virus of spyware.

What did the Iranians fire back with? A series of massive, on-going and ineffective DDoS attacks on American banks. This is a disproportionate response but not in the way military experts usually mean that phrase. It's the equivalent of someone stealing your car and you throwing an ever-increasing number of eggs at his house in response.
That's what makes all of this seem so monumentally silly. The government is making use of an American public, which is massively ignorant about who and what Iran is and is capable of, to go legislatively nutbars in our own country. Don't ask me why they're doing it, but they are. Perhaps more importantly, we're being told that we need legislation to protect against an incapable enemy in a war that we started. If that makes sense to you, chances are you need psychiatric care.

And even more problematic, and frustrating for me personally, is that our government isn't even putting in the effort to fool me properly. It's one thing to have Colin Powell waving a test tube at Congress and shouting "We're all going to die!", but it's quite another to have folks like Gen. William Shelton talking about potential risks in a potential war that we potentially started with a potential threat that we created by attacking it. That's entirely too much potential and not enough blatant falsehood. If the government wants to bullshit us, they can't go in half way. I need real creative lying, not nonsense reports that they have to subsequently pull because they're...you know...made up.
ProPublica reported yesterday that a widely cited Defense Department study claiming Iran's Intelligence Ministry constitutes "a terror and assassination force 30,000 strong" has been "pulled for revisions." It seems there's no proof whatsoever that the 30,000 number wasn't pulled out of thin air.
See, it's not that I'm siding with the pea-shooters here, it's that I'm more scared of the guys that started this war with their tanks. Particularly when the result is poorly-conceived legislation.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 9:27am

    Until the guys turn their tanks against their own population a la Syria.

     

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    DCX2, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 9:47am

    Why they did it

    $$$

    There are government contracts that need to be handed out to buddies and campaign contributors.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 9:53am

    It seems to me that much of the intel on "cyber warfare" is classified. So your dismissive attitude is based entirely on personal bias and suspicion. While the Iranians may be pantywaists, there are many, many capable intelligence services out there. There are several scholarly works out there on the subject that you might want to read before you make such stupid assertions.

     

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  4.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 9:53am

    Re:

    Simple solution to the tanks issue.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scram_cannon

     

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  5.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 9:58am

    Re:

    Feel free to link to them then.

     

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  6.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 9:59am

    Cyber War: A One-Sided Battle Against A Trumped Up Enemy

    Terrorism: A One-Sided Battle Against A Trumped Up Enemy
    FTFY

    I was watching a video about the drug problem in Russia. I got about a third of the way through when a Russian citizen that operates a rehab started blaming the drug problem on al-CIA-da and basically were calling it drug terror. [Shaking head]

     

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  7.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 10:00am

    Re:

    "So your dismissive attitude is based entirely on personal bias and suspicion."

    Why shouldn't it be? I'm waiting for how a "cyber attack" can take an entire power grid out that shouldn't be on the internet in the first place.

    "There are several scholarly works out there on the subject that you might want to read before you make such stupid assertions."

    Care to point to them?

     

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  8.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 10:01am

    Re:

    al-CIA-da! Boo! Cyber boo! Scared yet? Boo!

     

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  9.  
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    Prattle On, Boyo, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 10:07am

    RE: Cyberwar

    Like all "wars" created & waged by the Congre$$ional puppetry paid off to do the bidding of the Wall Street and the military-industrial complex, this particular snow job is no different. It works because of the massive indifference/ignorance of the great majority of Americans who would rather bury their heads and believe what their corporately consolidated media tells them rather than think critically and question the bullshit.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 10:20am

    Government Benefits of war

    Governments like to fighht wars on foreign soil, which means they are at low risk of being directly impacted by the war. It also gives them extra powers to order the country about. It gives an excuse for raising taxes, and controlling production. It gives an extra excuse for keeping secrets. It is useful for distracting their populations from any problems at home.
    The government gains, and the people carry the costs.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re:

    The best one I saw was a paper copy given me by a friend last yea. Since you seem too lazy to want to look for yourself, here is a start:

    http://www.ists.dartmouth.edu/docs/cyberwarfare.pdf

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 10:28am

    Funny how the boneheads here at Techdirt believed SOPA could break the Internet but don't believe the Chinese or Russians have majority capacity to attack US strategic interests over the Internet. It seems you supple-spined cretins will believe whatever is consistent with your preconceived notions, regardless of facts.

     

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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 10:28am

    Re: Re: Re:

    cites one study from 2004 by an unknown researcher and intern:

    About

    Welton Chang is a Defense Department analyst. Welton served as an active and reserve Army officer from 2005-2012. Welton graduated cum laude from Dartmouth College in 2005 with departmental high honors. While at Dartmouth, Welton worked at the Institute for Security Technology Studies where he co-authored and published a widely-cited monograph on cyber warfare. He is currently an MA candidate in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program. He is also a Truman National Security Fellow.

    http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Welton_Chang/


    NEXT!!!!

     

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  14.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 10:28am

    Re:

    It seems to me that much of the intel on "cyber warfare" is classified.

    While I have no doubt that some of it is, most of it is not. And of the stuff that is clasified, it is likely that much of it is over-classified.

    Why can I say this? Because the protocols that run the Internet and allow the communication are open.

    Vulnerabilities in software and hardware are published openly by responsible companies and the government - take a look over at US-CERT's page - because you can bet that the same vulnerabilities are being traded on the black market.

    The IP address ranges that are being used for attacks are controlled by the regional RIRs like ARIN and RIPE, and handed out to ISPs in an open manner - because without this, the Internet would not work.

    We're not dealing with classified technology that guides military aircraft or such - this is technology that millions of companies and billions of people have access to. There's no reason for most of it to be classified.

     

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    Jasmine Charter, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 10:29am

    Hollywood is too blame...

    Part of the problem is Hollywood and their ridiculous portrayal of anything "hacker-ish". For an industry that will bring in historical experts to make sure a military insignia is correct, they apparently have no quams about just making up stuff that a hacker can do...

    One of the worse was Hugh Jackman in Swordfish. Seriously... stick to sticking things with admantium claws.

    The flip side of that are authors... they write about hacking and computers like fantasy authors, taking a few buzz words and working them into their concept of what they think it could/should be... or, what they need to suit their story.

    But then people read these books and see these movies and think that this stuff can really be done... or at least, believe it is as easy as they portray on the movies...

    And OF COURSE they are scared that someone can crash the whole world with a cellphone...

     

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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 10:37am

    Re:

    Breaking the internet as it was in SOPA is completely different than a cyber attack. You just showed your ignorance on the subjects we discuss here.

    If a power grid can be taken down by some hackers on the internet, the problem isn't the hackers, but why did we put that capability into the power grid in the first place?

    supple-spined cretins. Meh.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 10:39am

    Re:

    SOPA would have handed private extra legal powers ro the entertainment industry, which is not the same thing as a cyber attack. Further any critical infrastructure control system should be separate from the Internet.
    You are conflating two very different problems, which is a cheap trick practiced by politicians when they are acting against the public interest.

     

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  18.  
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    Crashoverride (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 10:45am

    Not the "Cyber war is fake" again....

    Seriously this is like be an a "Tech Birther".

    Despite repeated evidence that foreign nations are mining the US to steal our technology. Hell just look at how similar Russia's space shuttle was. Our space shuttle was not the best design by FAR much better designs were put forth but due to the CIA stepping in requiring satellite launch capabilities our shuttle design was chosen. Yet Russia still ended up with a virtual carbon copy.

    They were stealing US secrets from day one of the Internet:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18686090/ns/technology_and_science-space/t/how-soviets-stol e-space-shuttle/#.UQF_JSckvng

    If a poor nation wanted to learn secrets or just educate themselves and advance their industries or have the capability to screw with the US cyber techniques would be the best at the lowest cost.

     

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  19.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 10:52am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You saw it, but did you actually read it? I suggest a re-read.

     

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  20.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 10:58am

    Re:

    You know that paper you linked to above?

    One of the weaknesses it mentioned was the Domain Name System.

    Remember the specifics of the SOPA fight about "breaking the Internet"?

    The key feature was that SOPA, as it was currently written, would prevent the DNS servers from being secured properly - since they would be forced to allow redirects from an untrustworthy source.

    Now who's the one believing pre-conceived notions regardless of facts?

     

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  21.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 11:00am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Moreover, as advanced industrial states such as the United States outsource their programming
    of software to countries such as India, Pakistan, China, Philippines, and Russia, the risk of rogue
    programmers using their access to commit cyber attacks rises"


    No wonder he now works at the Defense Dept.

    "The success of the 9/11 conspiracy has been attributed in part to a “failure of
    imagination” on the part of the U.S. defense and intelligence community."

    They never saw the training manual with the cross hairs and plane in front of the WTC towers. Some researchers.

    He will fit in perfectly at the defense dept.

     

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  22.  
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    Haywood (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 11:01am

    Re: RE: Cyberwar

    Same for the other "Wars on _____", The War on drugs escalated a minor infraction by a bunch of hippies to a full fledged conflict involving cartels and billions of $$, The war on poverty seems to have escalated that as well, when that started there were a damnsite fewer street people than there are now.

     

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  23.  
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    anonymous dutch coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 11:01am

    too simple

    pointing at iran is indeed silly, but it is naive to think that the US and Israel are the only countries capable of making Flame and Stuxnet like weapons. i can't find the article, but about a week ago i read about some type of malware attacking basically every serious country except China. coincidence? in short, i find the "cyberwar" nonsense coming from the military as dumb and naive as your "peace and love" propaganda. both grow up. in the core it's about different interests between nations that fuel an arms race. the type of weapon used is irrelevant, what counts is if that weapon gives you an edge. IT products and services today are the core of any army and will be used against any (potential) enemy. that said, i agree with you that making people aware of it without using bullshit should be worth a promotion.

     

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  24.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 11:05am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Since you seem too lazy to want to look for yourself, here is a start:"

    When you're trying to prove your point in an argument or debate, you link to sources that verify what you say. You do not, repeat, NEVER, say to your opposite to do the work for you or call them lazy when they (rightfully) don't do it.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 11:14am

    Re:

    Indeed, and I agree with you. However, when politicians refer to "cyberwarfare", they're referring to things like StuxNet...which was mainly an American design. IF someone is able to attack critical infrastructure through the Internet, then you have a serious problem with your internal security. If the power grid isn't on it's own Intranet, at least three steps removed from the rest of the 'Net, then there's something loose in the Security of the design.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 11:53am

    FCWL

    Pick your players everyone in the Fantasy Cyber Warfare League.

    You can pick from any national government or Commercial/Noncommercial entity (or non-entity - so that Anonymous can play too).

     

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  27.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 11:57am

    Re: Huh ???

    After reading through all the troll responses, all I can say is, Huh???

    Regardless of whether you believe there is a cyber war brewing, you just have to ask yourself why Congress needs to legislate anything regarding cyber war.

    Congress already has the ability to declare war on any nation if they choose to do so. It doesn't matter what weapons the US chooses to use in that war. The US Congress cannot make laws for other countries. The best they can do is enter into treaties.

    It just appears as if politicians are looking for a new super word to replace Terrorism, so they are trying CyberWar to see if it can gain enough traction to pass any legislation.

    If you are sitting at home in the US and worrying about China, Russia, and Iran, you don't have a super strong spine, you have a super weak mind.

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 12:34pm

    Seems like there were be more joint efforts between private companies and government

    Court Upholds Google-NSA Relationship Secrecy | Threat Level | Wired.com: "A federal appeals court on Friday upheld the National Security Agency’s decision to withhold from the public documents confirming or denying any relationship it has with Google concerning encryption and cybersecurity.

    "That’s despite the fact that Google itself admitted it turned to 'U.S. authorities,' which obviously includes the NSA, after the search giant’s Chinese operation was deeply hacked. Former NSA chief Mike McConnell told the Washington Post that collaboration between the NSA and private companies like Google was 'inevitable.'”

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 12:39pm

    American public, which is massively ignorant about who and what Iran is and is capable of, to go legislatively nutbars in our own country. Don't ask me why they're doing it, but they are.

    The general population:
    Undereducated
    Sheeple

    The Government:
    Authoritarian
    Collectivist Rulers
    Crony Capitalists
    Useful Idiots

    Result:
    Tyranny

    It's very simple if you look at the indices.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 12:44pm

    the first shots have been fired on GPS

    It already started. A rogue nation within OPEC hacked the GPS satellites to have us drive out of our way so we use more gas and enrich oil producing countries, we've been so blind.

     

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    Androgynous Cowherd, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 1:56pm

    Cui bono?

    Don't ask me why they're doing it, but they are.


    Cui bono? (Who's getting rich off this?)

    Answer is: some big crony contractors that make campaign contributions, as usual.

     

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  32.  
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    Digitari, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Re:Modern Bogeymen

    well it used to be heathens, then Huns, then Nazi's and Japs, then the viet cong, then drugs,then Hijakers then guns, then hackers



    see a pattern yet???

    we just GOTTA have a bogeyman, how else can we feel secure??

     

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  33.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 2:28pm

    Re:

    Despite repeated evidence that foreign nations are mining the US to steal our technology. Hell just look at how similar Russia's space shuttle was. Our space shuttle was not the best design by FAR much better designs were put forth but due to the CIA stepping in requiring satellite launch capabilities our shuttle design was chosen. Yet Russia still ended up with a virtual carbon copy.

    They were stealing US secrets from day one of the Internet:


    Okay, let me get this straight. Reading the details of that suggests the story does not support your claims at all. We're talking about Russia mining *UNCLASSIFIED* information, that the US *chose* not to classify -- and all of this happened in 1985, so we're not talking about the modern internet at all. And because of that Russia was able to create a similar space shuttle that flew ONCE and only ONCE.

    Oh, and it actually ended up benefiting the US, since it made it easy for the US to dock with Mir later on.

     

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    Corwin (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 6:16pm

    Hysterically hilarious hypocrisy

    Get this straight. So, US officials basically accuse Iran of preparing to attack their (laughably insecure) infrastructure, while attacking Iran's laughably insecure infrastructure.
    Meanwhile, they also pass laws that make criminals out of anyone using a computer at all.
    They pass laws to make it easier to blow the whistle on evil business, but destroy people doing it to themselves.

    It's amazing how dysfunctional that is. It's like a person who would think of the worst things all the time, screaming and shouting how they're wrong, while hiding in their own shadow to commit those exact same crimes.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 6:28pm

    Re: Re:

    The US benefited to such extent that they mandated that any mission would have to be able to use the ISS as a fail-safe. This were deemed so important that Hubble were almoast sacrificed as ISS could not be used for those missions.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 7:27pm

    Re: Re:

    One of the weaknesses it mentioned was the Domain Name System.

    Remember the specifics of the SOPA fight about "breaking the Internet"?


    Remember that provision was dropped before the bill even reached mark-up? I guess that recollection is at odds with your narrative. Sorry, carry on.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 7:30pm

    Re: Re: Huh ???

    Congress already has the ability to declare war on any nation if they choose to do so.

    Don't you think taking measures to prevent war is smarter than being put into a position to have to declare war?

     

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  38.  
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    Jack Whitsitt, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 7:35pm

    You're making a common mistake

    ...by listening to people who you already clearly know have no idea what they're talking about. Would you trust a politician or a senior military leader to really understand and be able to speak to the nuance of complicated psychological issues in the military? Would you trust the head of the FBI to clearly and without bias talk about the complex state of affairs that lead to stuff like Occupy Wallstreet? No...well, I wouldn't. By the time the comments have bbeen interpreted up from experts through 10 levels of bureaucracy, vetted by public affairs, and then filtered through the media, they're all ridiculous oversimplified to the point of being incorrect or misleading. That doesn't mean the underlying truth isn't there. With regard to cyber war, there are plenty of non-government relatively unbiased sources that are saying the same thing.

     

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    sintixerr (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 7:47pm

    Re: Re: Huh ???

    Most of the critical infrastructure which is involved in cyber war belongs to the private sector. If you read the legislation (or even anything but the worst of the reporting) you'd see that (much/most of) it aimed at how to handle convincing (or requiring) private companies to work together, put in reasonable controls, how to work with the government, etc.

    If someone drops a bunch of troops on US soil, there are clear laws and protocols already in place. But, with cybersecurity, imagine if the military wasn't allowed to prevent anyone from landing weapons or troops in/on US assets or even really see what's going on....and that once that happened...there were conflicting and confusing laws and protocols on how to respond. Especially if you're not 100% sure who's troops/weapons they are. This is what it's currently like in the US from a cybersecurity (war) perspective.

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 7:53pm

    Re: You're making a common mistake

    With regard to cyber war, there are plenty of non-government relatively unbiased sources that are saying the same thing.

    That's why I put the link to the article about Google seeking help from the US government over China hacking. Private companies are going to be working with the US government when it furthers both of their goals. I doubt that all of that is going to be widely disclosed, but I imagine it will continue to happen.

    And private contractors are doing a lot of the security work for the US government anyway, so the line between them can be hard to discern.

     

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    sintixerr (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 7:55pm

    Re: Re:

    A rough broad generalization (re overclassification) that while, yes, there probably is a lot of it that shouldn't be...there is also a lot of stuff that gets classified, not because of its content, but because of the original sources. Ie, if you find out something and know it for a fact because of sources/infrastructure that need protecting, that...thread...of information is classified. If there is public reporting of it later from unclass sources...that...thread...of information would not be.

     

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    sintixerr (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 8:05pm

    Re: Re: You're making a common mistake

    Nod. There's quite a bit of ongoing cooperation already. Good key words to start with are: NIPP, HSPD-7, NCCIC, ICS-CERT, ISAC, CIPAC (if results are ambiguous, tie in with DHS)...and go from there. Some of the terms are cyber-specific, others are general critical infrastructure protection that includes cybersecurity. A lot of information is publicly available, but (probably because of the volume of government B.S. writing that is hard to go through and the aforementioned political/leadership communication limitations), most people really aren't aware of the extent of work currently being done.

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 9:51pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    You're just mad that people realized that you were going to legalize all your little backroom deals to screw over the consumer, and now you're stuck with gloating that they're going to happen anyway.

    How's the campaign for Evan Stone coming along?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2013 @ 10:14am

    Wrong Enemy

    Instead of worrying about outside attackers, maybe they should worry about inside incompetents, like the people at ATT who downed Uverse from Monday to Thursday this week (took them that long to figure out it was a software upgrade problem and then either fix or back out the upgrade) and the others who tried to stifle public and media awareness by obfuscating the problem.

     

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    I Forgot, Jan 25th, 2013 @ 10:32am

    Reasonably cautious, prudent, paranoia

    The problem, of course, is that anyone who spends a couple minutes studying what's actually happening realizes that this is a one-sided war, likely started by the West, and our opponent is fighting against our tanks with pea-shooters.

    This is moronic disinformation, of course. That's all anyone needs to say about that.. ~except that, "you might remember you said that when the lights go out, possibly."

     

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    I Forgot, Jan 25th, 2013 @ 10:53am

    Re: the first shots have been fired on GPS

    They are the same ones responsible for all the stoplights being out of sync so we spend 10% of all gasoline world-wide sitting at intersections idling or starting/stopping? I believe it.

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2013 @ 11:45am

    Re:

    It seems to me that much of the intel on "cyber warfare" is classified.

    Hmm.. How would you know what they won't let you know so as to say, "It seems to me.. much of the intel on cyber warefare is classified" What intel?? Just asking!

     

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  48.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Jan 25th, 2013 @ 12:21pm

    Re:

    So your dismissive attitude is based entirely on personal bias and suspicion.
    Possibly, but the overblown claims made of the "risks" that go against what any non-classified expert will tell you is actually feasible are not.

     

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

  49.  
    icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Feb 2nd, 2013 @ 7:50am

    I just saw this

    I think Techdirt might be taking cybercrime less seriously than others.

    Eric Schmidt Speaks to China Hackers - Business Insider: “'The disparity between American and Chinese firms and their tactics will put both the government and the companies of the United States at a distinct disadvantage,' Mr Schmidt wrote, according to the Wall Street Journal. He argues that the Chinese state backed cyber crime for economic and political gain, making it the biggest online menace in the world....

    "Mr Schmidt and Mr Cohen come close to suggesting that western governments imitate China so they are not disadvantaged by its activities."

     

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


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