Securing Online Networks: A National Priority

Network security has become a top priority for the United States, both in the public and private sector.  Hackers across the globe, and especially China, have been gaining access to sensitive material which is supposed to be protected through web security.  Recently the Wall Street Journal, CNN, The New York Times and a few other major publications revealed that they were the victims of an infiltration, in which the hackers stole employee passwords which would grant them access to developing stories and also sources.  The implications here are vast.  In the words of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta we could face a “cyber Pearl Harbor” that would endanger the “U.S. power grid, transportation network and financial services”.  Clearly, this makes the security of these networks a national priority.  However, there hasn’t been much development of laws which would punish international hackers, previous attempts to pass such legislation hasn’t been able to pass through Congress.

4 thoughts on “Securing Online Networks: A National Priority”

  1. The U.S. is not the only country interested in its network security, and it’s possible it’s not just a victim of network attacks. In the summer of 2010, a worm called Stuxnet attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities. Although the true origin of the virus is no known, its complexity makes many people believe that the U.S. and Israel worked together to create it.

    The idea that countries can wage war on each other by attacking computer systems might seem preferable to actual warfare, but as it gets more advanced, it becomes more and more likely to affect civilians. The types of attacks Panetta mentions could cause widespread panic and destruction in regular communities and an attack on financial service networks would cause huge economic problems.

    This change in warfare is interesting, but also kind of scary.

  2. I wrote a previous post on stuxnet, it was written by the U.S and updated. Now it’s known as flame. I research malware and cybersecurity in my free time. One of the last books I read, called “Worm: The First Digital World War,” by Mark Bowden, details the most dangerous virus of all time, called Conficker (A, B and C). It’s infected enough computers to take down the entire internet in three hours by overwhelming one of the Internets thirteen critical servers. If it’s activation were to come about at the same time as an attack, there would be enormous destruction. You can test your computer for it quite easily with an image test found here: The worms progress was stopped by a group of private citizens, no government in the world is advanced enough to truly protect the internet. Scary stuff.

  3. That is incredible. I read the same article you referenced, along with a few others that reference the attacks on some of the largest US Banks. What I found most surprising is that there are still some government leaders/officials who had discredited the prospective impact of cyber attacks until recently. One would think that the, given the number of cyber attacks around the world, that the US would have swiftly sought to develop a comprehensive defense initiative to combat the threat. Just a couple of years ago, a cyber threat cost the British economy more than 20 billion euros. In 2009, one of the Pentagon’s major weapons defense programs was infiltrated by cyber attacks, which exposed aircraft design and systems data and cost the US over $150 billion dollars. I could not imagine what would happen if the International Monetary Fund was a victim of such attacks — it contains vastly sensitive data on the finances of many nations, including the US.

  4. This is pretty unnerving to say the least. What Leon Panetta is referring to is what’s called a “fire sale” and it has long been a major area of concern for agencies who deal with national security. A fire sale is an attack on a nations infrastructure (usually cyber), first the power grid is targeted, the next objective is to shut down the nations transportation network so no defense can be mounted and people are stuck where they are, and lastly the country’s financial system is attacked, erasing any and all financial records throughout the nation. A combination of these three techniques can effectively send a nation back to the stone age, which is why its called a “fire sale: everything must go.” I’ve actually read my fair share of articles about the theoretical possibilities of a “fire sale” attack like the one you mentioned, it has even been subject to one of the “Die Hard” movies. It would be devastating, no electricity, no transportation network and no record of who owns what financial assets, literally the stone age.

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