Hackers Top Terrorism as Greatest National Threat

by Matt Klassen on March 18, 2013

While some may think stalwart vigilance against the pervasive threat of terrorism both international and domestic may still be the course of action of protecting the freedoms of the American people, a news-filled week on the cybersecurity front points to a renewed focus from the Obama administration on the country’s fragile digital defence.

Despite the absence of an official declaration that cyber-terrorism is now seen by the government as the most serious threat to America, a Senate speech from a top national security official on Tuesday ranked hackers and cyberattacks as more dangerous to the country than threats of terrorism from the usual band of suspects like Al Qaeda and other such terrorist groups, and it looks like the powers-that-be are finally taking note.

That’s not to say that cyber-attacks are suddenly worse now than they’ve been in the past, but perhaps that the relative threat of hackers is on the rise due to the fact that the U.S. has been able to continue to effectively dismantle terrorist networks around the world, meaning the time is finally right to focus on this nagging security concern.

“Right now the U.S.simply doesn’t have a mature capability to detect and respond to cyberattacks,” Tim Erlin, director of IT security and risk strategy at security vendor nCircle, said in an interview recently. “Part of the severity measurement for a threat has to be the capability to detect and respond to that threat.”

While lacking the requisite cybersecurity infrastructure to effectively combat these modern day digital terrorists, the Obama administration has made it one of its chief security priorities over the past several years, launching several initiatives such as the U.S. International Strategy for Cyberspace and the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, both announced in 2011.

More recently, there has been a great deal of discussion around taking an offensive stance in this digital war, with both military and government representatives hinting at the notion that America may soon look to retaliate against nations (sorry China) and individuals who carry out attacks on major U.S. networks.

But in all this several questions quickly rise to the surface, questions regarding the timing of this apparent switch in focus, questions regarding the purpose behind it, and questions regarding the true safety and security of the American public.

While certainly no fan of global terrorist witch hunts, I have to think that until hackers find a way to start taking lives en masse (something most seem disinterested in doing), the looming threat to health and security might still be the threat of physical violence against the country. Cyberterrorism, certainly serious in its own right, represents a different kind of threat, a threat against the economic status quo, something big business and big government certainly don’t like.

Suspicious of this timing, this renewed focus on cybersecurity is a really a ploy, suggests Andrew Storms, director of IT security operations at nCircle. “The continuous saber rattling and media attention around cybersecurity,” Storms told tech site TechNewsWorld recently, “is part of a propaganda campaign designed to get and protect budget dollars and bolster public support to expand the cybersecurity efforts the government has undoubtedly had underway for years.”

In the end, perhaps this renewed focus on cybersecurity has nothing to do with our well-being, our protection, and our safety, but instead exists as one more fear-mongering campaign designed to get us all scared enough to pass legislation to help big business shore up its network weaknesses that we would never consider in peacetime…whatever that is.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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