Monday, March 31, 2014

The Missing Element in U.S. Cyber Security

By Jim McFarlin

In the global picture, the recent Target cybertheft is but a reminder that America - all of America - is under attack.

Late last year, the U.S. Navy discovered that its computer systems had been breached and its communications compromised. Not only did the Navy not know for how long the breach had been occurring, but it took them four months to rid their networks of the spyware that had been imbedded.

Whether by cybertheft, cyberterrorism, or cyberwarfare, the critical systems that generate and distribute electricity, operate our financial markets, and command our nation’s military and defense forces, to mention a few, are all targets.

And, unfortunately, this is a battle we are losing.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Opposing Internal Forces Sabotage U.S. Cyber Defenses

By Jim McFarlin

Cyberspace isn’t just becoming the 21st century’s dominant platform for life, as noted by Wired editor Ben Hammersley: It’s also becoming this century’s dominant platform for warfare.

As political and military decisions are made to protect and preserve our 21st century way of life, one can’t help but wonder how well informed these decisions will be. Before America can possess national security in the cyberspace era, we must reconcile these three opposing forces:

Friday, February 28, 2014

Target Credit Card Breach Hits the Boardroom

By Jim McFarlin

Some predictions do come true.

The question raised in this September post, Will 2013 Be the Year Cybersecurity Crashes the Party in the Boardroom? was late happening. Then on December 17th, in the midst of retail’s most critical sales season, reality crashed through Target’s boardroom in the form of one of the largest credit card heists in history.

Following the loss of credit card information belonging to 40 million customers and personal data of another 70 million customers, Target now faces massive expenditures to remedy the breach and shore up its cyber defenses to prevent repeat thefts in the future.

Dealing with such remedial action is not coming cheaply. According to the February 27th issue of The Wall Street Journal, Target’s fourth quarter profit fell from nearly a billion dollars a year earlier to just over $500 million in 2013’s fourth quarter, knocking nearly two billion dollars from its market capitalization.

But such financial shortfalls are just the beginning of Target’s troubles. Here are three more dampers on the company’s financial picture:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

White House Bunts on Critical Infrastructure Cyber Protection

By Jim McFarlin 

The United States is engaged in a non-stop global cyber conflict. Others across the globe have declared war on America – but we have not declared war on them. America is playing defense, and when it comes to cyber conflict, that’s a losing strategy.

It’s apparent that America is losing. Cyberattacks against the U.S. have risen tenfold since 2006, and China is conducting all-out cyber espionage on our military plans and weapons designs.

Meanwhile, Islamic extremists have vowed to destroy America by whatever means it takes. Extremist groups have lacked strong cyberattack capabilities but have been clear about their plans and intentions.

What does this mean for the country?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sanctions for the NSA; A Free Pass for Iran

By Jim McFarlin

It was an amazing global sleight of hand that would make even David Copperfield proud.

On January 17, 2014, President Barack Obama levied sanctions in the name of reform on the very U.S. agency that seeks to preserve the freedoms Americans rightly expect. Meanwhile, the nation’s attention was diverted from the easing of sanctions on a nation that would just as soon see those freedoms destroyed.

In an ironic fate of timing, this parlor trick occurred just as the real significance of the criminal hacking of credit card information from Target stores and other U.S. retailers was seeping into our consciousness: in the battlefield of cyberspace, America’s critical infrastructures are not defended. Our financial information are not safe, and our way of life is not secure. The Target attack publicly demonstrated that attacks such as this can be accomplished quickly and quietly, typically with fake or misleading identities.

The heart of this presidential illusion was to make sanctions appear to be reforms. Here is the essence of what was proposed:

Friday, December 6, 2013

Manhattan Project Needed for U.S. Cybersecurity?

By Jim McFarlin

I have written here about the risks America faces from rapidly dispersing cyber threats, the powerful forces of indifference and disbelief aligned against the development of our cyber defenses, and have made an argument for US preemptive cyber strikes against those who would attack us.

On a daily basis, cyberattacks successfully remove our intellectual property and military weapons plans, disrupt banking systems operations, and repeatedly steal personal information that is supposed to be secure.

The operative question: What it will take to marshal America’s resources to push us into developing effective national cyber defense capabilities?

Will it take another 9/11?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why the U.S. Will Preemptively Initiate Cyberwar

The pressures for preemptive global cyberwar are building, not because of the conclusion it provides but because of the salvation it offers.


Too many weapons. Too many bad actors. Too many untenable motives.

Such is the realm of cyberspace conflict today, a world where weapons are readily available and new antagonists seeking to advance their agendas can enter the fray with ease.

These are just three of the forces driving a global marathon that is racing toward a dangerous outcome. Only a few – if any – winners will cross the finish line.

It is a world in which the nation-states with cyber power moderate usage of their cyber weapons: China and Russia because they are perhaps satisfied with the intellectual property and military plans they retrieve; Iran and North Korea perhaps due to their fear of retaliation.

The newer cast of bad actors are another problem altogether. Extremists and the growing forces of cyber militias have no such fears and thus present a major danger to the U.S., Britain and other developed nations.

With no one else to rein these dangerous new players in, the U.S. will be forced to take offensive action, even if it takes the form of a widespread cyberwar. Here’s why: