Speaking on the topic of cyber terrorism, Loretta Lynch, the Attorney General of the U.S. is recently quoted as having said that “ISIS or any of our foreign enemies might develop that capacity … is the thing that keeps me and many of my colleagues in law enforcement up at night”. The attorney general…and all of us…should indeed be concerned by the threat of cyber terrorism by any group…not just ISIS.
For those who remember it, in the days of the Cold War we were ironically kept safe because of MAD…Mutual Assured Destruction. All the super powers back then realized that if a nuclear war was begun there would be no winners…both sides would lose..and humanity as we knew it might cease to exist. Today…at least for the moment…we have a similar standoff with regard to cyber warfare. The ‘bad’ guys can launch a massive cyber attack on us, but in retaliation the ‘good’ guys…that’s us…would launch a retaliatory strike on them resulting in mass chaos in all concerned nations.
However, this reluctance to attack…this mutual assured cyber destruction…does not take into account those with a terrorist bent. They have no qualms about attacking their opponent, nor the chaos it will cause should the cyber attack prove successful. Terrorists are not concerned about chaos because of their philosophic beliefs, and they are also not concerned about retaliation because they realize they cannot be retaliated against. These ‘bad’ guys have no home country, no city, no installations to destroy. They have only a vague nebulous of computer hardware/software that is operating from ‘somewhere’ on the planet operated by an unknown number of ‘bad’ guys. Trying to retaliate against them and the potentially thousands of computers they control (botnet) would be akin to fighting someone in a smoke filled room…in the dark.
We hold rouge nation states at bay who threaten cyber warfare with the knowledge that an attack on us will result in similar chaos in their nation, but terrorists have no such worries. Like Loretta Lynch, we should be very concerned about terrorists attaining the ability to launch a cyber attack against us, and taking every possible measure to protect our ‘crown jewels’.
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