January 14, 2010

American Cyber Shortfalls

Everyone surely realizes that there are holes in national security - the border, international travel and shipping are prime examples in the news quite often. These areas need to be addressed. But they are not alone. Back in June, Google carried a story about the U.S. Military preparing a counter-espionage entity designed to fight the most obvious method of attacks from the likes of China. The big question is, what took this so long?

In the article back in June, it points out that the U.S. military has realized the importance of cyber security.  Good.  google itself seems to be waking up about the issue now too.  Also good.
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The US military announced a new "cyber command" designed to wage digital warfare and to bolster defenses against mounting threats to its computer networks.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates formally established the command -- the country's first -- that would operate under US Strategic Command, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

The command will begin operating in October and be fully operational in October 2010, Whitman said.

The move reflects a shift in military strategy with "cyber dominance" now part of US war doctrine and comes amid growing alarm over the perceived threat posed by digital espionage coming from China, Russia and elsewhere.

US officials say China has built up a sophisticated cyber warfare program and that a spate of intrusions in the United States and elsewhere can be traced back to Chinese sources.

The officer widely expected to lead the command is Lieutenant General Keith Alexander, the director of the super-secret National Security Agency (NSA).

Alexander has described cyberspace as the new military frontier that could shape the future of national security, comparing it to sea or air power.
But for me it raises a number of troubling questions.  Why the delay?  Why now?  How much damage has already been done?  If Al gore invented the Internet (/sarcasm) why did the U.S. allow itself to fall behind the likes of China and Russia in an area the country not only invented but completely owned?

As a country with the greatest vested interest in keeping secrets (both military and commercial), you'd think someone, somewhere would be all over this.  The Chinese are stealing technology via cyber attacks, they are infringing on copyrights and patents, and the Iranians are waltzing out of the country with technology for nuclear reactors.  It's beyond disgraceful.

This is not however about affixing blame, rather it's about fixing only.  National security and cyber security more specifically is a bi-partisan issue.  It's not a liberal versus conservative thing.  It's not about blaming the military or even politicians.  But this should have been a no-brainer - it's mission critical stuff.

What is evident is that spying on America is not new.  Certainly not to the Chinese.  What's needed is a concerted effort to fix the problem before there's nothing left to defend.  All of that stimulus money, supposedly to preserve the economy and preserve jobs could be better spent by (1) not spending all of it and (2) the stuff that does get spent could be used to get a rigorous program in place to provide counter cyber-espionage.  Train and then employ a couple of hundred thousand cyber experts as a line of defense (never mind first line, a line period) against these sorts of incursions.

While you are at it, how about beefing up port security, airport security and maybe building a border wall that would prevent people from backpacking into the country?  Not liberal enough?  Hey, at least it would help employ some people. 

This is really a matter of national security and it's something that should be on everybody in the country's radar.  The world is not a completely friendly place full of unicorns and rainbows.  There are those who want their piece of America and they do not mean to do well for America in the process.  It's yours to defend and every day more isn't done, the greater the risk.  I hate to sound like a paranoid lunatic, but there is plenty of room for concern on this issue.  Plenty indeed.

NOTE:  Much of the text originally slated for this post was wiped out by a weird Blogger edit and immediate autosave.  I'm not saying the Chinese had something to do with it, just that it's sure coincidental that it happened on this particular post..........

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