By John Arquilla
San Francisco Chronicle
July 26, 2009
When it comes to national security, our leaders are overly focused on
nuclear weapons of mass destruction; more thought should be given to the
looming threat of cyber "mass disruption."
Yes, Russia has lots of warheads, but so do we. The situation is stable.
North Korea might have a few big weapons that work, but our retaliatory
capability would wipe them out. The same would hold for the Iranians,
should they ever get the bomb.
But in the virtual world of debilitating logic bombs, fast-spreading
viruses and remotely controlled "botnets" of thousands of slave
computers, a grave and growing capacity for crippling our tech-dependent
society has risen unchecked. And all the warning signs have been evident
A decade ago, one of our own military exercises - still classified, so
little can be said openly - revealed serious vulnerabilities. This was
soon followed by actual intrusions into our defense information systems,
apparently emanating from a site in Russia, that were persistent and
More exercises followed, to test new security standards, with names like
Silent Horizon and Cyber Storm. They showed that we were still quite
open to attacks against crucial infrastructures. And more real events
came into play - this time apparently connected in some way to China: a
swarm attack that nearly took down the power grid in Southern California
several years ago and, more recently, another series of cyber raids on
sensitive military data.
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