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Cyberwarfare: What it is, what it means to you and why you should be concerned. Richard Clarke speaks out in WSJ article in a call to arms.

June 19, 2011

So what is Cyberwarfare anyway? Sounds like a videogame…and in some ways you could say it is like that. It refers to politically motivated hacking for the purpose of sabotage and espionage. It is a form of warfare…information warfare and is sometime seem as analogous to traditional warfare.

Cyberwarfare has been defined by government security expert Richard Clarke in his book Cyber War, as “actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation’s computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption. “The Pentagon has formally recognized cyberspace as a new domain in warfare . . . one that has become just as critical to military operations as land, sea, air, and space.”

Last week Richard Clarke blasted the Obama administration for its failure to adequately protect “its own citizens when they are targeted for harm by a foreign government.”  He goes on to say, “senior U.S. officials know well that the government of China is systematically attacking the computer networks of the U.S. government and American corporations. Beijing is successfully stealing research and development, software source code, manufacturing know-how and government plans. In a global competition among knowledge-based economies, Chinese cyber-operations are eroding America’s advantage.”

Of course the Chinese government denies any wrong doing, claiming that the perpetrators are not affiliated with the government in any way or that these individuals could actually be “anti-Chinese” entities, committing these acts to damage the reputation of China. Most experts in the U.S. and allied governments don’t believe these denials.

Mr. Clarke goes on to recount incidents over the past three years that should give us all reason to pause and think more seriously about this issue.  The recent ones are quite onerous:  RSA, Lockheed Martin, IMF and Citibank.  Very few companies who have experienced the hacking, “come out” and publically talk about it…Google was one who publically accused China of hacking.  Google continues its claims against China, noting that recently Gmail accounts of senior U.S. officials had been compromised from a server in China. The targeting of specific U.S. officials is not something that a mere hacker gang could do.

The recent hacking of security company RSA should give us all reason to pause as whomever acquired that information for awhile had the “keys to the kingdom” and who knows what data they obtained fro what companies.

In addition to specific company or personal data being stolen, there is concern about safety of national infrastructure systems such as the electrical grid, the banking and trading systems and air traffic control. What would happen if a hacker accessed those systems…what havoc could they create?

The country and the world are heavily dependent on information stored on networks and connected through the Internet.  Mr. Clarke clearly states that the government should be protecting not only its own networks, but public and private computer networks in the United States.  As the definitions imply, there should be no difference in defending us in cyberwarfare as there is in traditional methods of warfare. Read his WSJ online and think about your organizations and your personal risks!

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