Cyber Warfare; should you be worried?

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By Joe Ragonese

What is cyber warfare and why should you care?  That question was one that this writer asked himself many times.  I thought that it had to do with someone stealing my personal identity.  You know, opening a charge account in my name or emptying out my bank account.  I, probably like many reading this, paid no attention to it until recently being hit with someone emptying out my bank account.  And then, like the proverbial person who closes the gate after all of the horses have escaped, did I try to learn more about it.

While there are no easy answers to identity theft, this writer learned that cyber warfare is real, affects all of us in a myriad of ways, and is definitely something to know about.  The first hint about cyber warfare came about during President Obama’s first term.  In 2010 someone on the Obama staff leaked about the use of the Stuxnet worm to counter criticism about his inaction against Iran’s building of a nuclear bomb.  Knowledge of the worm, and its usage was classified at the highest level; however, due to Obama’s falling popularity, the program was leaked to the Washington Post.

Until the leak, the Iranians had no knowledge that they were targeted.  Afterwards, they were able to clear the worm and finally made rapid progress toward developing an atomic bomb.  The breach in security was made to prop up Obama’s image.  The end result of such an egregious treason was that the world is now a much more dangerous place.  The stories all extolled about how tough the President was on Iran’s nuclear program.  Of course, investigation later proved that Stuxnet was developed and put into use jointly between Israeli and U.S. Cyberwar agents under President Bush.  Obama only took credit when it suited his political image at home.

The next hint came in 2014, when it was widely reported that North Korean cyber agents had attacked Sony Corporation because its movie unit was producing a film that was critical of North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un.  That cyber attack destroyed data, and disabled Sony’s computer system.  Cyber agents were also able to hack into the email system of all of Sony Pictures employees, including actors, actresses and department heads, including its CEO.  North Korea leaked several embarrassing emails, leading to CEO, Amy Pascal’s ouster over emails which were deemed racially insensitive about President Obama.  In all, over 170,000 internal Sony Pictures emails were published by WilkiLeaks.

It has been reported that over 100 million Americans’ personal data has been compromised, leading President Obama to say, “These cyber threats are among the most urgent dangers to America’s economic and national security.” Last fall Ted Koppel, of television’s “Nightline” fame, wrote a book titled “Lights Out,” where he examined the consequences of future cyber attacks on our nation’s power grid(s).  After interviewing a number of people from both the power companies and defense sector, he concluded, “It is not a matter of if the cyberattacks will happen, it’s a matter of when it will take place.”

George Cotter, a retired NSA top tech executive who now writes on cyber threats, wrote in April 2015, “The nation has little or no chance of withstanding a major cyberattack on the North American electrical system.  When such an attack occurs, make no mistake, there will be substantial loss of life and serious crippling of National Security capabilities.”   FEMA’s Craig Fugate said, “It quickly becomes a matter of keeping as many people from dying as possible.”

According to Richard Clarke, in his book, “Cyber Wars: the next threat to national security and what to do about it,” he speculates that if America attacks a rogue state, like ISIS, it could counterattack by cutting all of the power to Chicago or Los Angeles.  He went on to write that the U.S. is more vulnerable than other nations because it has connected so much vital infrastructure to the Internet: including; electric power, pipelines, airlines, railroads, distribution of consumer goods and contractor support of the military.

If the power grid or grids were to be shut down, we would immediately be in a crisis situation.  We would have no electricity.  Refrigeration would stop, making all of our perishable food items, in our houses and in the grocery stores, spoil.  Trains would stop running, causing food shortages within a few days.  The trucking industry is much smaller than it was only eight years ago, due to Obama regulations putting so many out of business, and they could not take up the slack.  In many places, like Los Angeles and Chicago, water would stop flowing through our pipes.  Banks would close, as would gas stations, drug stores, supermarkets and every service that we now take for granted.

Could Germany’s call for its citizens to be prepared by stockpiling food and water, followed by the Czech Republic and Swiss governments not only calling for the stockpiling of food and water, but asking its citizens to arm themselves, be because they already know how vulnerable they are?  Could it be that they know something is about to happen?  The sub- division that this writer lives in recently distributed a flyer about this very subject and called on residents to stockpile at least 55 to 185 gallons of water, as well as enough non-perishable food items to last up to three weeks.  What do they know?

The homeowners’ association concluded by explaining that in ancient Egypt, Joseph (no not me) stored food for seven years and when famine finally came, many lives were saved; including that of his own family.  It may be wise to judge what will happen in the future by what has happened in the past.  While we become complacent with how things are, today we live in a very connected world that is very dangerous and totally unpredictable.

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