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Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It - Richard A. Clarke, Robert Knake UPDATE at bottom - 01/09/13

Clarke remains one of the most compelling writers about matters of national security and he is in top form here. He and co-author, Knake, point out how the United States is at risk, from whom, and what we should be doing to make ourselves more secure.

The authors offer a nice intro to how the internet works, pointing out where along that road vulnerabilities lie, noting soft spots that are inherent in the DNA of the web.

Perhaps most alarming is that the nation lacks a comprehensive plan of defense. Where there are defensive strategies, they pertain to defending military and government targets, while ignoring the need to defend infrastructure like railroads, electrical grids, the telephone system, private pillars of our economy like the banking, food and retail industries. Sorry guys. You’re on your own.

Clarke proposes a defense triad. First screening of all traffic on backbone pipes. He claims that software is currently available that can do this without impacting throughput. Second, a secure power grid is crucial, and would include means by which the grid would be disconnected from internet access, and finally, a robust defense of military cyber-communications. He espouses a firm statement by POTUS that cyber-attacks would be considered the equivalent of kinetic attacks and would be subject to kinetic as well as cyber responses.

In order to protect the nation from cyber attacks, it will surely be necessary for there to be some sort of monitoring of the traffic entering the backbone internet ISPs. This raises serious privacy concerns, as we know from persistent experience that those with the power to spy will undoubtedly use it for dark purposes. Yet the solution he proposes puts private entities in that driver’s seat. The notion is that if we can remove the government from a direct role in monitoring internet traffic, privacy will be assured. It is shocking that he does not seem to realize that people are at least as concerned about the misuse of private communications by corporate agents. Substituting Big Babies for Big Brother is not much of an improvement.

Cyber War is not the first time that Clarke has been dashing about with his hair on fire. He has been right before. Hopefully, someone in a position to act will show up with a bucket of water in the form of taking seriously the concerns Clarke raises.

10/18/11 - A New York Times article on how the US considered using cyberwar against Libya offers evidence that total iWar is getting closer.

07/26/12 - In Rise Is Seen in Cyberattacks Targeting U.S. Infrastructure, New York Times writers DAVID E. SANGER and ERIC SCHMITT report on how our top cyber-warrior may be justified in becoming our top cyber-worrier.

1/9/13 - New York Times - Bank Hacks Were Work of Iranians, Officials Say