Weapons of mass disruption

Jeffrey Carr -Taia Global CEO & author of the book 'Inside Cyberwarfare' (O'Reilly Media 2009)- shares his views and opinion in regards to the emerging threats that will make the headlines in the decades to follow.

22 de Marzo de 2011

Matías E. Ruiz: -What are the differences betweeen cyberwar and cybercrime?

Jeffrey Carr: -Cybercrime is typically done by members of Eastern European organized crime purely for the money. "Cyberwar" is actually a very imprecise term since there isn't a legal definition yet for such a word.  Instead I prefer "cyber operations" which are usually initiated by nation states against internal opposition groups or external threats.

M.R.: -In your book, you report on the debate produced at Western countries in order to regard a cyberattack as a military attack. Were there any changes in this subject along recent years? What role plays atribution in this scenarios?

J.C.: -This is still a highly contentious area without any firm agreement between nation states as to what constitutes an "attack" which a government would be legally entitled to respond to in an act of self defense. Attribution is probably the single most important challenge to be solved because unless one can identify an attacker, there's no way to appropriately respond nor is there a way to deter attacks before they happen.

M.R.: -Can it be said there's a new sort of Cold War going on in what comes to cyberwar? Besides China, are the United States considering other countries as enemies in this technological scenario?

J.C.: -I don't believe that the U.S. considers China to be an enemy, nor any other country except those that we are currently engaged in military conflict with. However China, Russia, and probably other nation states do engage in cyber espionage against the U.S. Espionage has never been considered an act of war so again we are in a difficult position in knowing how to respond, particularly since although many people suspect the Chinese government to be involved, it's very difficult to prove that suspicion.

M.R.: -Is it possible to force shutdowns on nuclear power plants via the remote use of viruses and trojans? What about major blackouts?

J.C.: -I believe that it is possible to create serious problems at nuclear power plants through a sophisticated cyber attack similar to what has been seen with Stuxnet. The same is true for causing blackouts in various parts of the power grid. Idaho National Labs produced a report in 2005 which identified 150 cyber attacks in multiple nations over a period of years. It's hard to believe that none of them were successful.

M.R.: -Which are the variables considered when it comes to classify a hacker/cracker as a cyberterrorist, a cybercriminal or an asset working for a foreign government?

J.C.: -I think it depends on motivation. A cyber terrorist (which we haven't seen too many of yet) wants to cause chaos. A cyber criminal wants to make money. A cyber operator working on behalf of a government wants to acquire a high priority technology or carry out a mission that serves his government's interests.

M.R.: -It has been said that systems relying solely on computers could increase their weakness. Do you agree? How can the human factor interact with AI in order to enhance the security of a system, whatever information it's protecting? Is the value of HUMINT on the rise or is it the other way around?

J.C.: -I'm not a scientist nor am I very familiar with AI so I'm afraid I can't provide to much of an answer for this question. I do think that low tech solutions are often better than high tech ones when it comes to securing critical data.  

M.R.: -How would you describe the reception of your expert advise on behalf of US agencies? Can we say the country is now much better prepared than, let's say, five years ago? Is the private sector considering cybersecurity an important issue?

J.C.: -In my experience, providing information to government agencies is a one-way street. You offer the best advice that you can and you rarely get feedback. I think that the U.S. is marginally better prepared in terms of awareness of the threats however we have a very long way to go before we can call ourselves "secure".

M.R.: -What was, in your view, the exact role social media played along the Egyptian crisis? Was the role of Mubarak's opposition overrated in what comes to their Internet actions?

J.C.: -I believe that social media empowered the protestors to finally take action because they could have their efforts witnessed and monitored by the entire online world. In the past, oppression of dissent could be contained by the regime in power. Today, thanks to social media, that's impossible.

M.R.: -Which are the implications of the Egyptian scenario for foreign governments that strongly rely on political propaganda over the Internet?

J.C.: -Every government, whether democratic or not, should expect to have its secrets exposed and its actions broadcast by whomever happens to oppose its policies. The best thing that any government can do is to have a social media strategy in place and get out in front of of the opposition with its own message.

M.R.: -What's your opinion on Wikileaks and in regards to what Julian Assange has done?

J.C.: -It points to an essential cyber security failing - the lack of real-time monitoring for classified and other critical networks. The fact that someone could download several hundred thousand classified documents and not trigger any alarms is mind-boggling. Regarding Assange, I consider his actions irresponsible. I'm all in favor of whistleblower protection, however Assange is not a whistleblower. In my opinion, he's simply an opportunist looking to make a name for himself.



Jeffrey Carr is the founder and CEO of Taia Global and the author of “Inside Cyber Warfare” (O'Reilly Media 2009). He regularly consults with agencies of the U.S. and allied governments on Russian and Chinese cyber warfare strategy and tactics as well as new and emerging threats. His book has been endorsed by General Chilton, Commander USSTRATCOM and his Chief of Staff MG Abraham Turner, among others, and he has been asked to speak on these issues at numerous venues including the Defense Intelligence Agency, US Army War College, Air Force Institute of Technology, Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Study Group, and NATO’s CCDCOE Conference on Cyber Conflict.



Matías E. Ruiz, Editor


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Matías E. Ruiz, Editor