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Archive for February, 2011

Cyber Security: The Road Ahead

The open Internet has been a boon for humanity. It has not only allowed scientists, companies and entities of all sorts to become more effective and efficient. It has also enabled an unprecedented exchange of ideas, information, and culture amongst previously unconnected individuals and groups. It has completely revolutionized on a global scale how we do business, interact and communicate.

Cyberspace is defined by its ubiquitous connectivity. However, that same connectivity opens cyberspace to the greatest risks. As networks increase in size, reach, and function, their growth equally empowers law-abiding citizens and hostile actors. An adversary need only attack the weakest link in a network to gain a foothold and an advantage against the whole. Seemingly localized disruptions can cascade and magnify rapidly, threaten other entities and create systemic risk.

However, vulnerabilities in cyberspace are real, significant and growing rapidly. Critical national infrastructure; intelligence; communications, command and control; commerce and financial transactions; logistics; consequence management; and emergency preparedness are wholly dependent on networked IT systems. Cyber security breaches, data and intellectual property theft know no limits. They affect everything from personal information to national secrets.

Download the paper that looks at the way these problems are likely to develop, as well as at some of the ways they may best be tackled at the national and international level.

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U.S. intelligence officials concerned about cyber attack

Director of the CIA says such a terrorist attack is ‘a real national security threat’ that would damage financial and government systems.

A major cyber attack somewhere in the United States is becoming increasingly possible, top government intelligence officials said Thursday, warning that an assault on America’s power grid system “represents the battleground for the future.”

The officials, speaking at a special hearing on Capitol Hill, also said that although Al Qaeda has been diminished after nine years of the U.S. war on terror, more foreign groups have risen up, increasing concerns among U.S. authorities that one of them may eventually get their hands on a nuclear device.

“I don’t think there’s any question but that this is a real national security threat that we have to pay attention to,” CIA Director Leon Panetta said of a cyber attack in this country. “The Internet, the cyber arena … this is a vastly growing area of information that can be used and abused in a number of ways.”

With that in mind, he told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, “when it comes to national security, I think this represents the battleground for the future. I’ve often said that I think the potential for the next Pearl Harbor could very well be a cyber attack.”

Panetta said terrorists are determined to find a way to hack into the power grid system in the United States, which he said “brings down the financial system, brings down our government systems. You could paralyze this country.”

He noted that extremists in Iran, Russia and China are developing “a significant capacity” to stage such an attack, and that “hundreds of thousands” of attempts are being made to sneak into national security networks.

“We’ve got to develop not only a defense against that,” he said, “but we’ve got to put our assets in places where we can provide sufficient warning that these attacks are coming”.