Cold War Cyberwarfare

In January 1982, President Ronald Reagan approved a CIA plan to sabotage the economy of the Soviet Union through covert transfers of technology that contained hidden malfunctions, including software that later triggered a huge explosion in a Siberian natural gas pipeline, according to a new memoir by a Reagan White House official.

MSNBC, via Schneier on Security

Computer security is a hobby/profession of mine. I have been worried for a long time about the possibility of a cyber-terrorist attack, or even a conventional attack aimed at large scale economic disruption. This is the ‘proof in the pudding’ that such a thing can happen, and has happened already.

To use insecure systems in such a world for our critical infrastructure should be criminal. If a major flaw in Windows were uncovered and used to attack the US’s banking industry – how much damage could be done? How many billions of dollars could be simply erased?

Computer systems are no longer just for email and word processing. Businesses live and die by their systems. Their entire accounting ledger is on a computer now.

Imagine, if you will, a rootkit like worm that would simple shred any Quick Books files that it found. Or one that scrambles the BIOS of the computer so that it will not boot. Or one that overwrites the allocation tables on the Hard Drive to trash the entire thing. You would want to make sure that it could propagate, so have it wait to do anything until it infects four other machines, or 6 hours pass.

That’s the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night.

An, we still run out in droves to buy products that are proven time and time again to be totally inadequate to the task. Worse then that, we run our businesses and governments on these products. We listen to the people who make, sell and profit from these products as they tell us how secure they are – how they are working hard to fix the problems that they themselves have created.

And we give them our money, and they get richer.

Cyberwar is already here. The first battles in this new realm were fought over 20 years ago. It’s only time before we are hit again.

Do you think that we are ready?

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