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



Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

Slaves of Charleston - Beyond Wealth of Jewish South Carolina
2014 09 15
Founded in 1749 in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, the Beth Elohim Synagogue is one of the very earliest synagogues in America. While other synagogues and congregations are also now a part of Charleston city life, Beth Elohim Synagogue is the oldest one in the area and serves as the repository for certain historical artifacts of Jewish life in the city. ...
Martian meteorite yields more evidence of the possibility of life on Mars
2014 09 15
A tiny fragment of Martian meteorite 1.3 billion years old is helping to make the case for the possibility of life on Mars, say scientists. The finding of a ‘cell-like’ structure, which investigators now know once held water, came about as a result of collaboration between scientists in the UK and Greece. Their findings are published in the latest edition ...
Swedish Surprise: Anti-Immigration Party Surges...
2014 09 15
Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt Sunday’s election in Sweden was supposed to be a cakewalk for the Left. The Drudge Report ran a piece yesterday from the Guardian entitled: “Free-market era in Sweden swept away as feminists and greens plot new path.” The paper, a left-wing British outlet, published the piece the day before the election; it proved to be, well, ...
UK School to fingerprint students to ‘monitor their diets’
2014 09 15
STOURBRIDGE, England – A school is implementing a biometric system to better track what students are eating each day. The Express & Star reports students at Redhill School in Stourbridge, England will be fingerprinted in an attempt to reduce lunch lines and “monitor pupils’ diets.” The system requires pupils to press a finger against a machine which converts the print into ...
U.S. State Department Orders 160,000 Ebola Hazmat Suits
2014 09 15
The U.S. State Department has ordered 160,000 Hazmat suits for Ebola, prompting concerns that the federal government is anticipating the rapid spread of a virus that has already claimed an unprecedented number of lives. In a press release posted by Market Watch, Lakeland Industries, a manufacturer of industrial protective clothing for first responders, announced that it had signaled its intention “to ...
More News »