False Flag Cyber Attack Looming?
2013 08 20
By Sharon Weinberger | BBC
Despite many warnings, no major attack has taken place on the United States. So it is logical to ask why this hasn’t happened yet, and if it ever will.
For the past few years, US officials have warned of a coming mega cyber attack against critical infrastructure, something akin to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The threat of a looming “Pearl Harbor” was reiterated last year by then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who painted a dark portrait of passenger trains sent careening off the tracks and poisoned water supplies, thanks to hackers.
Press articles and opinion pieces followed suit with doom-laden headlines like The Gathering Cyber Storm, Is America Prepared for a Cyber Pearl Harbor? and The Looming Certainty of a Cyber Pearl Harbor.
What form such an attack might take depends on who you talk to: many experts have pointed to physical destruction that could be wrought by a cyber attack, such as a virus programmed to take down the power grid, sinking whole cities into blackness. Or, the attack could be financial rather than physical, such as a coordinated intrusion on banks that brings the economy to a crashing halt, like what happened on a smaller scale in Estonia in 2007 (major banks have already staged drills against a possible attack).
Yet for all the talk, and warnings, no attack of that magnitude has taken place on the United States, at least not yet. So it is logical to ask whether the rhetoric is being exaggerated. After all, if a determined enemy had the opportunity to carry out such an attack, why wouldn’t they have done so by now?
Some officials are now beginning to tone down the warnings. “We judge that there is a remote chance of a major cyber attack against US critical infrastructure systems during the next two years that would result in long-term, wide-scale disruption of services, such as a regional power outage,” James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, told the US Congress earlier this year. “It’s not in the realm of anything we’ve seen to date,” said James Caulfield of the Advanced Cyber Security Center in Boston earlier this week. “It would take as much effort to truck in a bomb.”
Here are some reasons why a cyber Pearl Harbor hasn’t happened yet, and possibly never will:
Cyber weapons don’t always work
When Stuxnet, a virus targeting Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities, was first revealed in 2010, it appeared to demonstrate that such attacks could actually destroy physical infrastructure, as opposed to simply disrupting or exploiting digital information and communication. The Stuxnet virus was specifically created to cause gas centrifuges used for enriching uranium to spin out of control and, in effect, self-destruct.
While touted by many as proof that cyber attacks could do vast damage, some have since questioned whether Stuxnet was really as successful as has been claimed. Earlier this year, Ivanka Barzashka, a research associate at the Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College London, published an analysis of Iran’s uranium enrichment capabilities, arguing that even if Stuxnet destroyed some of Iran’s centrifuges, it had a negligible impact on the countries capabilities. “Clearly, Stuxnet had the potential to seriously damage Iranian centrifuges, although there are many technical limiting factors to the malware’s success,” writes Barzashka. “Public evidence of the Stuxnet’s impact is circumstantial and inconclusive.”
In fact, she argues, the data available through the International Atomic Energy Agency demonstrates that Iran, notwithstanding the Stuxnet attacks, was able to increase its uranium enrichment, moving it potentially closer to a nuclear weapon.
The metaphor is wrong
Part of the problem with a cyber Pearl Harbor is that although the threat is real, the particular metaphor may be flawed. Pearl Harbor was not just an unexpected and devastating blow to US military forces in the Pacific, once the attack took place, the military and the public recognised the threat. A significant cyber attack may not be so immediately crippling.
“The most pressing cyber threat is not likely to be a single, sudden attack that cripples the United States,” wrote John Arquilla, professor of defense analysis at the US Naval Postgraduate School. “Cyberwarfare is a lot like [US poet] Carl Sandburg’s fog, coming in on ’little cat feet’.”
Read the full article at: bbc.com
Latest News from our Front Page
Tiny Micro Robots Build Things in ‘Microfactory’
2014 04 17
The teenie-weeniest robot uprising ever might be sooner rather than later due to the work of research institute SRI.
Don’t let these microbots’ size fool you, there is power in numbers and thousands of the robots can work together to perform tasks at dizzying speed.
SRI International has developed a new generation of ant-like robots that can work as ...
’We are not dead yet’: Heartbreaking text messages sent from schoolchildren trapped aboard South Korean ferry
2014 04 17
Passengers on board the South Korean ferry sent heartbreaking messages to their family members just moments before it sank.
Children waiting to be rescued frantically reached for their phones as the boat began to list in a bid to communicate with their loved ones a final time.
Twenty-four people, including five students and two teachers, have been found dead, but 272 are ...
"A world of pure imagination": How Occupy turned to "anarchy"
2014 04 17
In the closing ceremonies of London’s 2012 Summer Olympics, comedian Russell Brand, perched atop the Beatles’ "Magical Mystery Tour" bus, opened his performance by singing the first lines of "Pure Imagination" from the movie Willy Wonka:
Come with me
And you’ll be
In a world of
Artists ’have structurally different brains’
2014 04 17
Artists have structurally different brains compared with non-artists, a study has found.
Participants’ brain scans revealed that artists had increased neural matter in areas relating to fine motor movements and visual imagery.
The research, published in NeuroImage, suggests that an artist’s talent could be innate.
But training and environmental upbringing also play crucial roles in their ability, the authors report.
As in many areas ...
NSA-proof email service goes online
2014 04 17
A new email service that protects its users from the prying eyes of the NSA and other spy agencies has gone online. The service’s creators say it will make encrypted messaging accessible to all and curtail internet snooping.
Germany-based Lavaboom was inspired by Lavabit, the encrypted email service that was believed to have been used by whistleblower Edward Snowden before it ...
|More News » |