Part I of this series dealt with America’s use of unmanned drones as weapons against terrorism abroad and plans to use them for surveillance here at home. Today we will look at how our government is using cyber technology as a weapon and the fear that this technology can be used against America and there for the need for our government to police the internet and invade our privacy for reasons of national security.
How do we know our government is using cyber attacks as a weapon? We know for the same reason we know about the President’s hit list for drone attacks: intentional administration leaks designed to bolster Obama’s reelection chances. This will be the topic of tomorrow’s post.
For those like me who are not cyber geeks, let’s start with answering the question of what is a cyber attack. Here are a couple of simple definitions:
Cyber Attacks: computer-to-computer attack that undermines the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of a computer or information resident on it. (Source)
A cyberattack is an attempt to undermine or compromise the function of a computer-based system, or attempt to track the online movements of individuals without their permission. Attacks of this type may be undetectable to the end user or network administrator, or lead to such a total disruption of the network that none of the users can perform even the most rudimentary of tasks. (Source)
Computers can be infected with spyware and malware; such as , viruses and worms. Google these term if you wish to learn more.
This past Sunday the New York Times ran an article titled Mutually Assured Cyberdestruction? . The author of the article presents an interesting analogy of the internal debates our government has gone through in arriving at a consensus of under what condition they would consider using a nuclear weapon and then more recently on a much smaller scale the conditions for using predator drones; and now:
And now we know that President Obama, for the past three years, has been going through a similar process about how America should use another innovative weapon — one whose destructive powers are only beginning to be understood. In a secret program called “Olympic Games,” which dates from the last years of the George W. Bush administration, the United States has mounted repeated attacks with the most sophisticated cyberweapons ever developed. Like drones, these weapons cross national boundaries at will; in the case of Olympic Games they invaded the computer controllers that run Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, spinning them wildly out of control.
Later, the author raises some pertinent questions :
Does the United States want to legitimize the use of cyberweapons as a covert tool? Or is it something we want to hold in reserve for extreme cases? Will we reach the point — as we did with chemical weapons, and the rest of the world did with land mines — that we want treaties to ban their use? Or is that exactly the wrong analogy, in a world in which young hackers, maybe working on their own or maybe hired by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army or the Russian mob, can launch attacks themselves?
Cyber attacks can run from the serious to the very serious:
The Chinese are believed to attack America’s computer systems daily, but mostly to scoop up corporate and Pentagon secrets. (Mr. Obama, one aide said, got a quick lesson in the scope of the problem when an attack on his 2008 campaign’s computers was traced back to China, a foretaste of what happened to Google the following year.) The United States often does the same: the Iranians reported last week that they had been hit by another cyberattack, called “Flame,” that appeared to harvest data from selected laptop computers, presumably those of Iranian leaders and scientists. Its origins are unclear.
IN March the White House invited all the members of the Senate to a classified simulation on Capitol Hill demonstrating what might happen if a dedicated hacker — or an enemy state — decided to turn off the lights in New York City. In the simulation, a worker for the power company clicked on what he thought was an e-mail from a friend; that “spear phishing” attack started a cascade of calamities in which the cyberinvader made his way into the computer systems that run New York’s electric grid. The city was plunged into darkness; no one could find the problem, much less fix it. Chaos, and deaths, followed.
It is clear then that our infrastructure; power grids, gas distribution systems, financial systems, are vulnerable to cyber attacks. American Thinker interviewed former Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, former FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry, and Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, to get their thoughts on this new and dangerous threat. No surprise. They all concur that the treat is very real. The AT article informs us:
Two bills are being considered to deal with the cyber-threat: the Lieberman-Collins Cyber Security Act and the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), authored by Congressman Rogers and passed this past April. The Cyber Security Act involves the security of systems that control the essential services: power, water, and transportation. Among the requirements: the Department of Homeland Security will assess the risks and vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure systems, working with the owners/operators to develop risk-based performance requirements and to verify that the requirements are being met. There would also be information-sharing between the private sector and the federal government regarding threats, incidents, best practices, and fixes.
The bottom line, dear readers, is because there is a strong case that national security is at risk from cyber attacks, we will have cyber police sooner or later. Our government, with the cooperation of the Googles and the Yahoos, be able to access any computer and read and copy any file and share it with whom ever they wish. It is going to happen and we will probably have nothing to say about it. Will there be any controls over the cyber police? Why shouldn’t they have to get a court order to invade our privacy? Do we need a new type of “cyber judges” who instead of having a legal background are instead computer geeks which have been train in the Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure as well as the principles of probable cause? Is that too much to ask?
With advances in technology in the form of drones flying overhead with spy capabilities and cyber police probing our computers, the principle of a reasonable expectation of privacy is becoming a think of the past.
Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?