Monday, August 26, 2013

Dispersing Cyber Threats Signify New Risks for U.S. Homeland Security

Fortunately – and unfortunately – computers are everywhere. When used for good, computers power our modern way of life. But when used under the wrong direction, the cyber machines possess powerful capabilities for malicious actions, such as initiating military action, creating social chaos, affecting government turmoil, and inflicting destruction.

The constant here is the computer. The variable is the human factor, which, as I profiled in my earlier post on human factors, poses the dangers.

The growing problem is that the rapidly expanding availability of cyber weapons is enabling global proliferation of cyberwarfare capabilities into less-developed nation states and, increasingly, the hands of extremists and “irrational hackers.”

This is where the risks for U.S. Homeland Security begin. And to these risks, there is no end in sight.

Amidst recent announcements of increases in cyberwarfare forces, a high-ranking Soviet official referred to the Internet as the new “Theater of War.” This is not a statement of intent, but of reality.

However, it’s an understated reality. Conflicts in cyberspace are well underway and are not new. Nearly continuous attacks rage between Pakistan and India, N. Korea and S. Korea, the U.S. and Iran, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and the Syrian Electronic Army and the U.S. The list goes on.

Too Many Holes in the Dike?

This brings us back to our variable: the human factor. Computers do what they are told. Unfortunately, what they are told to do can sometimes be in error, and these errors can lead to unexpected consequences, whether it be on the trading floors of Wall Street’s investment securities exchanges or a programming mistake in the NSA’s complex data surveillance analysis software, leading to a computer misfire in the NSA’s Prism, Stormbrew or Lithium programs.

This human element risk adds to a host of other threats posed by expanding nation state cyberwarfare capabilities, extremist factions, state sponsored militias, and so-called “irrational hackers” who do not follow the rules of ethics or even necessarily common sense, but only want to cause damage.

With threats from cyberattacks escalating rapidly and these expanding risks in play, Homeland Security, the NSA and the FBI will soon be facing too many holes in the dike. Difficult decisions affecting large portions of the American population will then have to be made.

The two-year window of America's cyber safety net* is quickly running out the clock.


*As described in CyberWarfareToday's Quarterly Cyberwarfare Report. Complimentary Executive Summary available in the sidebar.

("Hand Pushing Social Network Button On A Touch Screen Interface" image: twobee/

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