08.05.11

To protect and serve the plutocracy: Our cyberwar defenders

Posted in Cyberterrorism at 1:44 pm by George Smith

I continue to maintain the cyber-defense industry is for the haves.

Half the populace could be in plywood shacks and lining up for a chance to have what’s left of the laundry done at homeless centers and we’d still have to put up with warning about cyber-attacks on the financial system.

These assembled quotes, inspired by the recent outbreak of cyberwar fear pieces, added to by McAfee Associates, a company now acting as an intelligence agency, issuing reports that we’ve suffered through a five year cyberwar, the equivalent to a Pearl Harbor (boldface snark, mine):

What’s the point of these attacks? Alperovitch isn’t sure but he believes, “If even a fraction of it is used to build better competing products or beat a competitor at a key negotiation (due to having stolen the other team’s playbook), the loss represents a massive economic threat not just to individual companies and industries but to entire countries that face the prospect of decreased economic growth

Decreased economic growth.

The first shots appear to have been fired in the first major cyber-war. The next question is: “Who’s behind them?” Alperovitch isn’t saying, but some observers suggest that China is behind what might be called a technology Pearl Harbor. — some PC mag on-line.


One of the scenarios I evoke frequently when speaking with clients about computer security is called “Frontier Friction.” At the beginning of the story, a coordinated terror attack takes out the servers of a large banking institution. They also take out their backup systems. A coordinated cyber-terror attack further disrupts the financial systems. In essence, all forms of non-physical finances become impossible to track and all transaction systems come to halt overnight. No recovery plan exits for such an attack. The developed world reverts into the third world within weeks. — FastCompany

The developed world reverts into the third world within weeks. Ignore the economic collapse here and in Europe today.


“The next Pearl Harbor we confront could very well be a cyberattack that cripples our power systems, our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems,” Panetta said. He has said that cyber security will be a key focus of his Pentagon tenure. — one of about a thousand citations

Thanks, Leon.

Keep noticing the obsession with attacks on banking and the financial system. It’s a way of salesmanship. There’s no currency in selling cyberwar defense (or even much value added ice cream cone cybersecurity ‘ware) to the already broke middle class. It doesn’t care and doesn’t like buying it, anyway.

However, the plutocracy — or the collected coins in the US treasury — those are other matters, entirely, things to lust after.

Infrequently, something skeptical shows up in the mix. Invariably, it will not have been published by a big US computer security consultancy or sprung as a scoop by a news agency:

The targets for such criticism include Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH), a consultancy with extensive ties to the US government which in 2010 won at least $400 million in cyber-security contracts. BAH’s executive vice-president isMike McConnell, former director of national intelligence (2007-09) and a leading cyber-hawk (“the United States is fighting a cyber-war today, and we are losing”, he has written in the Washington Post) …

[Peter Sommer’s] report outlines what it sees as real risks, while dismissing some “exaggerated scenarios”. For example, the study says that a cyber-attack is unlikely to cause great loss of life, or disable the banking system. “One hypothesis is that banks might get wiped out. That really is a bit of nonsense, because it’s trivially easy to back up computers”, Sommer says.

Sommer should know what he is talking about, for in the 1980s he wrote a genre-creating book ( The Hacker’s Handbook, under the pseudonym Hugo Cornwall) and has seen many alarms about cyber-malfeasance come and go. He says the current spasm risks wasting precious national resource …

Booz Allen and Smilin’ Mike McConnell. Yes, did that. You read it here, first.

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