Cyberwar menace causing insomnia? Sadly, no

Posted in Cyberterrorism at 8:53 am by George Smith

“Military leaders now routinely warn that the Pentagon’s computer networks are attacked daily,” reported the Omaha World Herald newspaper a few days ago.

Omaha is home of Offutt AFB, home to StratCom, which has some skin in the game of military perimeter cyberdefense.

“The U.S. Strategic Command is awaiting a military review that eventually might diminish its role as the military’s go-to group for waging war in cyberspace,” fretted the newspaper.

Well, it won’t be that bad, DD told the reporter. Things will continue pretty much as usual, the US military using a hodgepodge of agencies, arms and resources to keep doing what it’s been doing in the area for the last fifteen years. Whether or not an organizational chart is rewritten and personnel and facilities switched around won’t really matter in the long run.

“Rival governments are suspected of being involved in cyber attacks and cyber espionage that not long ago would have been relegated to the science-fiction rack,” continued the article.

“A Chinese computer system dubbed GhostNet recently infiltrated at least 1,300 computers in the United States and more than 100 other countries, allegedly to steal information about the Dalai Lama.”


“Russians are suspected of attacking some of Georgia’s computer systems before the Russian military bombed that country last August.”

Aaaah! The Russians are coming! So are the Chinee!

“Most cyber defense isn’t sexy, [George Smith] said. It’s the day-to-day drudgery of protecting computer networks from things like data theft and computer viruses.

But the bigger threats from foreign governments scare military, industry and academic experts, said Mustaque Ahamad, director of Georgia Tech’s Information Security Center.

” ‘This is keeping a lot of people awake at night,’ he said.”

No, not if they’re sane.

But it’s worth noting the dire claim is just from the exact source one would expect, someone who’s livelihood is integrally entwined with getting others to believe the potential of cyberwar merits some fear, trembling and night sweats. Such claims have fallen like pigeon droppings in the city for the last fifteen years.

They’re common, unremarkable, numbing and well beyond stupid.

“No matter what happens with the cyber mission, StratCom’s future in Omaha still shines bright,” the Omaha Herald article finished. “The command expects to receive 600 more personnel in the next few years to complete its cyber mission …”

The standard example of weekly, sometimes daily, dishwater on cyberwar, piece furnished by Evgeny Morozov writing for Newsweek.

Information is classified! But facts were “eye-opening” and “clear,” a cliche (or cliches) published when things are actually the opposite.

Among the targets were two of Estonia’s biggest banks, whose online systems were severely degraded for several hours. The scale of the economic damage is still classified as a state secret, but the fact that this happened in “E-stonia,” a proud digital society (Oh, puh-leeze!), where even parking meters take payment via text messages, was eye-opening. Although the decentralized nature of cyberattacks made it hard to know whether the Kremlin ordered the attacks, clues led Estonia to a Russian suspect, whom the Kremlin refused to extradite.

One thing is clear: Russia gained from what may be the first successful invasion in the new age of cyberwar. Hillar Aarelaid, a manager at Estonia’s computer emergency response team, who coordinated Estonia’s defenses during the assault, told me that the attack used a nasty weapon called a “distributed denial of service” or DDOS…

See here, for comedy. Or here and here. Here, too.

“It will be the acme of skill to defeat the prideful military of the Americans through the righteous uniting fists of stealthy digitized roaming mobile code.”

– People’s Liberation Army military theorist Fu Man Tzu in “Cyber-Wars Like Grains of Sand,” translated by China scholar, Hue Pflong Pu, Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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