Really? Are they bringing this one out again?
I’ve heard about the dangers of “cyber war” almost since I got started in this business twenty years ago. Essentially, since the internet existed, people have been claiming that dangerous hackers are going to take over our infrastructure from within. Sound familiar? Like, oh, say, the Red Threat of the Cold War?
It’s pretty easy to get IT guys like me whipped into a frenzy about this. Back in the day, Winn Schwartau wrote THE go-to book on the subject, Information Warfare, and in that book he talked about a so-called “Cyber Pearl Harbor” that ushered in a new era of digital warfare. Well, now, it seems, ZDNet is reporting that we may have already had our so-called Cyber Pearl Harbor. According to security researchers at McAfee, and elsewhere, several targets, including the United States, have been under a five year sustained cyber attack and they went on to speculate that a “state actor” was likely behind the attacks. A security consultant at Sophos pointed out that fingers are usually pointed in China’s direction when government-funded and supported cyber attacks are discussed. And, I have to admit, based on the other forms of espionage, especially industrial espionage, that we’ve seen from them over the years, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were using the Internet to attack various sites remotely in an attempt to get restricted information of various kinds.
But, is this a “Pearl Harbor”-like event? I mean, really?
Do you see people rallying around this issue? Are hackers joining the U.S. Military to defend our cyber borders? If they are, it’s one of the best kept secrets in the world right now. Seriously.
Pearl Harbor was a galvanizing event in our history. That one event is what got us off the fence and into World War II, as a nation. Honestly, I don’t see that happening here, or anywhere that high-level computer tech is the focal point of the debate. We may rely on that tech to get our jobs done or to entertain us, but, really, most people don’t have any idea of the security work that goes on behind the scenes. This is an invisible war, if it even can be called that.
Again, I think it’s a new form of Cold War. It’s a battle waged in the shadows against an all but invisible enemy. It won’t be fought like a conventional war of any kind, much less like World War II. And, if the cyber war is an apt metaphor at all, then it’s a war we’re already fighting.
Oh, and as for the Chinese, well, they’ve already used their influence as a global market to get a partial retraction from those fine folks at McAfee, who are now claiming that there is no definitive link to any “state actor” of any kind, much less China. Of course, I’ve only seen the back-peddling on a single, English-language, but Chinese supported, news site. Still, that, my friends, is the view of the new global economy and the real war. Big governments will start to throw their weight around and corporations will “adjust” their position on the truth to tap the market and access their bottom line. Of course, that’s nothing new, either. China’s been doing that for years. Only now, they may be the biggest market still available in the entire world.
Looks like we all better start learning Mandarin!