The Cult of Cyberwar and Iran (continued)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism, War On Terror at 1:15 pm by George Smith

I just got off the telephone with the BBC. And this was because, overnight, the news media had renewed its interest in the ongoing denial of service nuisance attacks against major banks in the US.

Excerpted, from NBC, last night:

Ally Financial on Thursday became the latest U.S. financial institution to face cyber attacks that may stem from hackers in Iran …

Regional bank BB&T and credit card issuer Capital One confirmed disruptions earlier this week. A spokeswoman for Ally, the former auto lending arm of General Motors, said the bank was investigating the “unusual traffic” on its website.

Sources have previously told Reuters and NBC News that the attacks could be part of a year-long cyber campaign waged by Iranian hackers against major U.S. financial institutions and other corporate entities.

And today, from The Daily Ticker, with the provocative title “U.S. Banks Under Cyber Attack from Iran: Is Your Money Safe?”:

The number of cyber attacks on U.S. banks is rising …

Larry Castro, a managing director of The Chertoff Group (yes, that Chertoff), tells The Daily Ticker, that there’s been no breach of customer personal data or financial information as a result of these attacks, according to bank reports. Castro, who spent 44 years at the National Security Agency, says these “denial of service” attacks are “a significant nuisance” but not as serious as a loss of actual personal data.

Earlier this month Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned about a possible “cyber-Pearl Harbor,” saying it could potentially wreak havoc on the nation’s financial system, power grid, transportation system and government.

It’s always worth repeating that, as a nation, the US has put itself in a situation where it’s in no position to complain about cyberattacks from Iran. And that is because we have been attacking Iran and other Middle Eastern nations with malware produced by a state-run virus-writing lab (or labs).

However, the current round of news has been a convenience — in terms of publicity — for both sides. Those launching the attacks get the gratification of seeing stories which tend to exaggerate their impact in the mainstream press. And US government officials, anonymous and publicly, get to use them in scare statements meant to grab attention.

As Frank at Pine View Farm put it last week:

As near as I can figure, it’s a threat because because people say it’s a threat and because they don’t like President Ineedashaveabad’s manners.


*Loopy theories about “cyberterrorism??? are not admitted as legitimate arguments. They are part of the “full employment for security consultants??? movement and aren’t taken seriously by persons who know how computers and networks actually work.

The persistent meme from the Cult of Cyberwar is that nothing of the infrastructure is safe. Especially the financial system.

Earlier in the year, the National Security Agency’s Keith Alexander tried to get people to believe that cyberattacks on the US have constituted “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.”

In the real world, Dean Baker, an economist and scholar at the Center for Economic Policy, wrote:

The amount of damage being inflicted on countries around the world by bad economic policy is astounding. As a result of unemployment or underemployment, millions of people are seeing their lives ruined. The current policies have led to trillions of dollars of lost output. From an economic standpoint this loss is every bit as devastating as if a building had been destroyed by tanks or bombs. And people have lost their lives, due to inadequate health care, food and shelter, or as a result of the depression associated with their grim economic fate.

If an enemy had inflicted this much damage on the United States, the countries of the European Union, or the countries elsewhere in the world that have been caught up in this downturn, millions of people would be lining up to enlist in the military, anxious to avenge this outrage. But, there is no external enemy to blame. The villains are the economists, still mostly men, in business suits …

the United States is also losing close to $1 trillion in output each year, with close to 23 million unemployed, underemployed or out of the workforce altogether because of poor job prospects.

The economists in policy positions are doing their best to convince the public that the economic catastrophe that they are living through is a natural disaster that is beyond human control. But that is what Vice President Biden would call “malarkey.??? This is a disaster that is 100 percent human caused and is being perpetuated by bad policy.

The original collapse was the result of central bankers who were at best asleep at the wheel, or at worst complicit in the financial sectors’ wheeling and dealing, ignoring the risks that massive housing bubbles obviously posed to the economy. However the response to the downturn has made a bad situation far worse than necessary.

Read the entire piece. It makes sense, encapsulating the story of economic collapse and continued suffering, all due to western financial systems and easily verified economic policies.

It is not some arrant and callow bullshit about cyberwar catastrophe emitted for the benefit of stenographers on the security beat in the mainstream media.

In 1998 I wrote “Electronic Pearl Harbor, Not Likely” for the National Academy of Science published magazine, Issues in Science and Technology.”

That was fourteen years ago. When I mention to reporters who call how long I’ve actually been looking at these issues they seem to have a hard time getting their brains around such a fact.

While all the technology mentioned in the piece has dated, as a general prediction, it’s still pretty great. I was right.

And that was an unpopular position then, as it is now. What’s perhaps more surprising is that genuine education and debate on these matters has become much worse.

You can’t write critical things like this at big venues, or even publicize them very much anymore.

Cyberwar, like many other topics in national security, has been converted into a third rail issue. There is only one way it is discussed or publicized: Catastrophe is looming, always coming, imminent.

Call it the radioactive fallout of the war on terror. Careful thinking on national security was washed away in favor of compiling enemies lists and creating a great professional corps of paranoids and salesmen to develop cant on how easy it would be for just about anyone, anywhere, to bring down the US or kill tens of thousands, at any time.

Yes, we are all going to die someday. That’s certainly true.

In 1998, me:

Another reason to be skeptical of the warnings about [cyberwar] is that those who are most alarmed are often the people who will benefit from government spending to combat the threat. A primary author of a January 1997 Defense Science Board report on information warfare, which recommended an immediate $580-million investment in private sector R&D for hardware and software to implement computer security, was Duane Andrews, executive vice president of SAIC, a computer security vendor and supplier of information warfare consulting services.

Assessments of the threats to the nation’s computer security should not be furnished by the same firms and vendors who supply hardware, software, and consulting services to counter the “threat” to the government and the military. Instead, a true independent group should be set up to provide such assessments and evaluate the claims of computer security software and hardware vendors selling to the government and corporate America. The group must not be staffed by those who have financial ties to computer security firms. The staff must be compensated adequately so that it is not cherry-picked by the computer security industry. It must not be a secret group and its assessments, evaluations, and war game results should not be classified.

Quaint. And where did that reasonable suggestion go?


The exact opposite is what we have today: A national security infrastructure totally permeated with conflicts of interest in threat assessment and revolving doors in which people routinely go from positions of oversight to the national security private sector and vice versa.

Trivia: Bill Clinton was president in 1999. And Leon Panetta, who probably did not even know the word cyberwar at the time, was the White House Chief of Staff.

The Clinton administration’s “digital Pearl Harbor” man was Assistant Secretary of Defense John Hamre. Hamre is now CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, one of those many think tanks now responsible for finding and analyzing all the many enemies we must build our fortresses against.

Now be good people and listen to Binders Full of Women Blues. That’s not faked, either.

Comments are closed.