Sunday, August 11, 2013

US cyber defense versus the world...and ourselves.

An interesting article caught my attention earlier tonight - written by @sedaye_man it shines a bit of a spotlight on a topic that's been discussed in think tanks and around executive board room tabletop exercises ...but it has meaning for a much broader audience. The article is entitled "Will the U.S. - Iran cyber conflict escalate?" and it does more than merely pose a question that has a fairly obvious answer ...

The aforementioned article calls to light a recent publication called "Iran: How a Third Tier Cyber Power Can Still Threaten the United States" from an organization called the Atlantic Council. Interestingly enough, without even having to read the publication or attend the event they hosted, if you've been paying attention to the 'cyber' aspect of our daily lives you can start to see how even a "tier 3" country like Iran can and may likely cause substantial damage - financial, political and maybe in terms of human lives - to a "tier 1" country like the United States.

I'd like to take a slightly different perspective here, as you all already know me for doing. I'd like to point out a painful fact that the United States government is causing a large portion of its own demise. Allow me to explain...

What do countries like Iran, Syria and perhaps even China have in common? Once you get past the rebellious faction of the population you quickly come to the nationalists. To an outside observer, countries like Syria, Iran and China are burrowing deep within the United States, and other countries too, infrastructure largely being supported by their government. These attacks driven by nationalism to a degree - for example look at the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) - and fueled by the brainwashed hate of western society and the US.

Now, by itself this would all appear to be standard operating procedure and something the United States will simply have to deal with. But judging by the global news - and this very well may be because countries like China, Iran and Syria have tight control on their news outlets - while the nationalists from these countries are fighting the United States, the United States is fighting not only them but internal battles as well with their own citizens. This I blame largely on the corruption inside the US which has reached a fever pitch. It's not like this kind of unrest didn't exist before - only now we have the Internet and connected systems which can potentially open a dam and flood a town mistakenly connected to the open Internet.

If you're in the business of protecting United States critical infrastructure, you have an interesting adversary model to build. On the inside threat you have groups like Anonymous (which by now we all know) and other hacktivists, and on the outside you have organizations like the Syrian Electronic Army and APT1. That is not an enviable position to be in.

One has to wonder whether the lack of a catastrophic incident involving a cyber aspect inside the United States is due to the tremendous skills of the defenders, the enemy biding their time, or simply incompetence and dumb luck... whatever the real cause this is not a good position for us to be in.

I can tell you this with reasonable certainty - adversary models would be a whole lot less complex if we didn't have an ever-expanding internal threat at level or greater than the external threat. Maybe it's time to rethink US internal and foreign policy ... and maybe that is the lesson of cyber?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a side note: Jason Healey of the mentioned Atlantic Council gave a pretty interesting presentation at BlackHat this year about the possible national response to a large scale 'cyber attack'. This was something that I haven't really thought about. Good read: https://www.blackhat.com/us-13/briefings.html#Healey

Marco said...

As a side note: Jason Healey of the mentioned Atlantic Council gave a pretty interesting presentation at BlackHat this year about the possible national response to a large scale 'cyber attack'. This was something that I haven't really thought about. Good read: https://www.blackhat.com/us-13/briefings.html#Healey

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