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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cyber Attacks, Virtual War

How vulnerable is the United States to a cyber attack like the attack on Estonia's government websites, which many believe emanated from Russia, that cripped their sites for nearly two months in 2007? Such an attack would be considered an act of war by most.

Our society has become so dependent upon computer technology that an attack against America's computer networks could cripple the U.S. in ways probably not much different than the "Fire-Sale" portrayed in Live Free Or Die Hard. Even considering the possibility of such an attack against America encourages one to ask, how prepared are we for a major cyber attack if it should come?

The attack against Estonia in 2007 crippled Web sites operated by Estonian government ministries, banks, media outlets and other companies. The "denial of service" attacks swamped Web sites with so many hits they were forced to shut down.

Coincidentally, the attacks came when the U.S. and other governments are in the process of mulling how to respond to cyber attacks.

At the time of the attack against Estonia, the country's officials stated that it traced much of the traffic that inundated its Web sites to Russian computers. The government also said it found on the Internet instructions in Russian on how to carry out the action. After initially accusing the Kremlin of orchestrating the attack, the Estonian government later softened that position, alleging the attacks came from Russia, but that it had no evidence implicating the Kremlin.

Such attacks, then, are a serious threat to the security of our country, and with Russia, China, North Korea, and the Islamic Jihad showing animosity toward the United States, it would be irresponsible to deny the possibility of such an attack from one of those sources anytime soon.

NATO views the threat as a serious possibility, and has boosted its cyber-attack response force. Apparently, the attack on Estonia's systems last year was enough to convince NATO that cyber attacks are a very clear threat, and the organization has responded accordingly with an efficient and expedient way of hardening its own systems.

The United States has taken the threat seriously as well, creating a cyberspace command through the United States Air Force that is prepared to wage war on the cyber-battlefield. Our nation recognizes that there are new threats out there, and that as a nation we need to be prepared to defend ourselves on a virtual battlefield. The Air Force Cyber Command is the only military force of its kind, which defends our nation from over 3 million cyber threats per day. Our national security extends beyond the leaking border and the war abroad. Knowing that we have this internet vulnerablility, the United States seems to have taken precautions so that they may deal with cyberspace attacks.

So it cycles back around to the question: Are we truly ready to answer the call against a major cyber attack should it come?

It seems like we are prepared, but only time will tell if we have prepared enough.

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