03 August 2010

Your Lives are but Bits on Chips: Watch Them Flicker Out

How much of your lives is stored on digital networks? Bank accounts, medical records, educational and employment history, electronic communications and social networking, and more. All of that, plus power grids, financial networks, critical defense systems, air traffic control systems, corporate data files and online backups -- everything connected to the internet or a communication-accessible network -- could be taken down over a period of a few minutes, given sufficient planning and setup.

Cyberwar is an all-out attack on the digital data-underpinnings of modern life. The more reliant we become upon digital networks ("smart power grids" etc), the more vulnerable we become to cyberwar. US National Security Agency (NSA) veteran Charlie Miller has mapped out a comprehensive cyber-attack plan against the US. Miller implies that his plan would satisfy enemies of the US such as North Korea or China. And it would not be terribly difficult or expensive -- considering the devastation it would cause.
Miller explained that he had actually been asked by the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Estonia to play general in the theoretical attack scenario.

He shared his results at a NATO briefing in that country in June.

"I already knew it was easy, but now I know in detail how easy it would be," said. "We are certainly very vulnerable."

Miller described the 100-million-dollar price tag as a bargain compared to how much money is spent on cyber defense.

He crafted a broad strategy to target smart grids, banks, communications and all other aspects of a nation's technology infrastructure.

The cyber army would number about a thousand soldiers ranging from elite computer commandos to basic college trained geeks, according to the plan.

A key to success was stealthily breaching networks and establishing beachheads in computer systems during the two years before the main cyber invasion.

...National Security Corporation president Mark Harding recalled graduating from officers school in the Navy having completed a thesis on how unprepared the country's military is for cyber war.

"There are people I know who have indicated they can take the entire Internet down and they can," Harding said. _Source_via_BrianWang
A relatively primitive belligerent nation such as North Korea has little to lose by bringing down the world's financial and defense networks -- the global internet and all its vital dependent networks. North Korea is minimally networked. Even China or Russia could take precautions to protect themselves, during the two year setup period before the final attack.

But these are old ideas, and it is quite possible that most or all of the setup has already been done, by someone, somewhere.

A cyber-attack would be more effective if combined with multiple parallel and simultaneous attacks, such as EMP and ABC -- atomic (including dirty bombs), biological, chemical. A clever nano-attack would be potentially more effective as an adjunct to cyberwar and EMP, but the technology for a massive and devastating nano-attack may still be decades away -- if we are lucky.

Consider the destruction from the cyber intrusion as the spearhead of a coordinated and fairly comprehensive attack. North Korea might be the nominal, putative villain -- a cat's paw. Which means that North Korea may receive whatever counter-attack the US was able to muster after the networks and power grids go down. But could you tell the difference between pre- and post- nuclear attack for a country already as devastated as N. Korea?

Meanwhile, China and Russia (assuming they were prepared in advance) would be in a perfect condition to move into the US as part of an international relief mission -- in the absence of an effective US government -- meant to relieve the incredible hardship being suffered by the American people. History will never say anything different from the above -- no matter what the underlying truth.

Should the electronic infrastructures of your lives collapse in a nano-second, what would you do? No electric power means no transportation fuels could be pumped. No supplies of food or medicines would be brought to your city to replace the supplies looted from gutted and burned out stores. No clean water would be pumped to your house. No electric lights, no air conditioners or electric heat, no showers. Your lives, as you currently think of them, would dissolve in a short time.

Think of it as an interesting problem which no one can solve but yourselves. What do you do?

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share


Blogger gtg723y said...

The Governments of China and Russia could care less about the American people. They probably care about our natural recourses and infrastructure, but not about our population, if they choose to save any of us it is because we will be needed to help maintain the newly acquired infrastructure, we will also have to assimilate or die in all likelihood. It is my greatest hope that in the event of such a catastrophic attack the British will come and take over, organize our remaining military resources, and set up a proxy government.

Tuesday, 03 August, 2010  
Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

China is the obvious candidate to organize a cyber war. Who knows what little surprises are buried on all the Chinese computer chips in everything from computers to washing machines.

But the most likely scenario for a cyber war is a coordinated action between Russia and China. A cyber attack leaves the US paralyzed; Russia takes Europe; China takes the 'Stans and the Middle East; Africa and South America get ignored -- as usual.

But we live in a world of Unintended Consequences. There was life -- good life! -- in the US before computers and the internet. A cyber attack would cripple the power of government. How would the Department of Stupid Obstacles keep track of all its insane regulations? What would the IRS do when forced back on paper copies?

With government crippled, US business would spring back to life. With no ability to do just in time deliveries from the Far East anymore and with US regulators paralyzed, industries would rebuild. The millions left unemployed by Obama would find work. And a US that had been crippled by computer-enhanced intrusive government would stand tall once again.

As America found its feet, it would look overseas at Russia exploiting once-uppity Europeans and China ruling a once contentious Middle East with an iron rod -- and Americans would smile, and call it a major improvement.

Please! What's the delay? Let's lose that cyberwar today!

Tuesday, 03 August, 2010  
Blogger Borepatch said...

The idea of China and Russia pulling a "Red Dawn" scenario is interesting. I'd suggest that China would have big problems after an American collapse - big unemployment.

Russia, too, as Europe's economies also collapse.

A more interesting problem is selectively taking portions of the infrastructure down - saw, the top 10 ports, to stifle American military logistics ("When conversation turns to war, amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics.").

The best approach is resilience and decentralization to increase survivability. SmartGrid takes us in the opposite direction, as the Fed.Gov is enamored with Top Down control. Fail.

Pournelle's Iron Law probably explains this pretty well.

Tuesday, 03 August, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Yes. An all-out cyberwar would be an act of desperation, with many unintended consequences. Think of the terrible stresses that might lead China, Russia, or "X" to such a decision.

Logistics is crucial, as you say, Borepatch. Locations for stockpiles of fuel and equipment by the US military worldwide is probably not a very big secret.

Security experts at a recent meeting in Las Vegas share your dark view of the "smart grid."

Wednesday, 04 August, 2010  

Post a Comment

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts