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A First… That We Know Of…

April 6, 2011

Counter-terrorism is all the rage these days in most large governments.  Hit up any country with a lot of assets and/or otherwise lousy law enforcement, and you’ll find that the main government likely has a strong anti-terror bent.  This is especially true in Israel, which on a good day is only surrounded on three side by countries that hate it (and on a bad day you add a hostile Navy on the fourth).  As Israel leads in counter-terrorism, it inevitably needs to add a bit more to the equation.

Israel is mulling the creation of a counter-cyberterrorism unit designed to safeguard both government agencies and core private sector firms against hacking attacks.

The proposed unit would supplement the efforts of Mossad and other agencies in fighting cyberespionage and denial of service attacks. Israel is, of course, a prime target for hackers from the Muslim world.

There’s a strong need for this in any country, and this is only getting more important every day.  Any decent first or second-world country is highly dependent on technology for its base infrastructure such as phone, transportation, emergency services, etc.  This doesn’t even start to consider the impact of technology on financial services or general employment in the developed world.  We alrady have some examples of cyber-attacks that have been targed at Iran’s energy infrastructure.

Stuxnet, whoever might have created it, along with recent cyberespionage attacks, have concentrated government minds across the world on the problem of defending against cyberattacks. Some of the scenarios peddled by doom-mongers – cyberattacks using Stuxnet variants to take down power grids or collapse communications infrastructure – are more the stuff of Hollywood than reality. However there is a real threat in there, mainly at this stage from either cyberespionage or denial of service attacks.

Honestly, it was a pretty poor attack, but it hit at the center of a pretty high-level infrastructure.  I can still remember the G. Gordon Liddy’s of the world warning us of a major attack on the Chicago Rail Yards (which would pretty much stop all east-west train traffic in the US).  What would they think now if an attack disrupted the long-distance traffic control systems in the rals (stopping pretty much all train traffic)?  Okay, I know what Liddy would think.  He’d say, “Go buy GOLD!”  But that’s another post.

The point is that many systems are vulnerable to attack, mostly because we haven’t thought of anyone who’d be interested in attacking them.  As terrorists get access to more sophisticated tools (thanks to the fact that the developed world is busy educating them), I would bet that many other countries will be stepping up cyber-counter-terrorism activity.  The article notes that Germany and England have recently stepped it up, and the US has been making noise in this as well.  I wonder what it will take for the countries to relize that these small units need to be a lot bigger and be a lot more forward-looking in their work?

Actually, I shudder to think of what it’s going to take…

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