Information warfare

  • Cyber operationsThe CIA bolsters cyber operations

    The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is planning to join the growing list of U.S. intelligence and security agencies which have redefined their missions to include cyber operations — in the CIA’s case, cyber espionage. Current and former agency officials say the new effort will be part of the broad restructuring of an intelligence service long defined by its human spy work. The shift also reflects the increasing role cyber plays in intelligence gathering, with allies and adversaries relying on smartphones, social media, and other technologies to communicate.

  • CybersecurityObama’s cybersecurity initiative: a start but businesses – and individuals – need to do more

    By Frank J Cilluffo and Sharon L Cardash

    The linchpin of President Obama’s recently launched cybersecurity initiative is to encourage the private sector to share information to better defend against cyberattacks. Yet U.S. companies have historically been wary of openly talking about their cybersecurity efforts with competitors and with government — for good reason. Many businesses fear that sharing threat-related information could expose them to liability and litigation, undermine shareholder or consumer confidence, or introduce the potential for leaks of proprietary information. For some companies, Edward Snowden’s revelations of sweeping government surveillance programs have reinforced the impulse to hold corporate cards close to the vest. Yet on the heels of a deluge of high-profile cyberattacks and breaches against numerous U.S. companies, we may finally have reached a tipping point, where potential harm to reputation and revenue now outweighs the downside of disclosure from a corporate perspective. Obama’s executive order is thus a spur to get the ball rolling but, frankly, there is a limit to what government alone can (and should) do in this area. Changes in attitudes and behaviors are needed across the board, right down to families and individuals.

  • Cyber operationsNew document details U.S.-Iran cyber tit-for-tat

    Just as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart discuss plans to ensure Iran does not weaponized its nuclear program, a newly disclosed National Security Agency (NSA) document details the intensifications of cyber skirmishes between the two countries. While the document does not describe the specific targets in Iran, it acknowledges, for the first time, that the NSA’s attacks on Iran’s nuclear program, a George W. Bush administration project, initiated the cycle of retaliation and escalation of the U.S.-Iran cyber conflict.

  • Infrastructure protectionU.S. contemplates responses to a cyber-Pearl Harbor attack on critical infrastructure

    Cybersecurity experts often contemplate how U.S. security agencies would react to a cyber-9/11 or a digital Pearl Harbor, in which a computer attack would unplug the power grid, disable communications lines, empty bank accounts, and result in loss of life. “Ultimately, it absolutely could happen,” says one expert. “Yeah, that thought keeps me up at night, in terms of what portion of our critical infrastructure could be really brought to its knees.”

  • CybersecurityFirst known Arabic cyber-espionage group attacking thousands globally: Kaspersky Lab

    The Kaspersky Lab Global Research and Analysis Team the other day announced the discovery of Desert Falcons, a cyber-espionage group targeting multiple high profile organizations and individuals from Middle Eastern countries. Kaspersky Lab said its experts consider this actor to be the first known Arabic group of cyber mercenaries to develop and run full-scale cyber-espionage operations. In total Kaspersky Lab experts were able to find signs of more than 3,000 victims in 50+ countries, with more than one million files stolen.

  • Cyber educationArmy Reserves, six universities establish cybersecurity training centers for cyber warriors

    The U.S. Army Reserves (USAR) Cyber Public Private Partnership Initiative (Cyber P3) sees the USAR partner with six universities to establish six centers of cybersecurity training for USAR. Each school in the Cyber P3 will be able to give reservists the training necessary to receive advanced foundational cyber skills and the potential equivalency for cyber Military Occupational Specialty Qualification, which would enable them to become specialists in the Army. They will also have the opportunity to enroll at the schools with scholarships provided through the program and the G.I. Bill. 

  • CybersecurityObama continues push for cybersecurity bill

    Following his remarks on cybersecurity at the 2015 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama will attenda summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protectionat Stanford Universitythis Friday. Attendees will include major stakeholders in cybersecurity and consumer financial protection issues, including executives from the financial services, telecommunications, and retail industries, as well as law enforcement officials and consumer advocates. Obama has requested $14 billion for cybersecurity initiatives in the 2016 federal budget, a 10 percent increase from 2015 budget.

  • Infrastructure protectionU.S. yet to develop a strategy to secure nation’s critical infrastructure

    For years, the U.S. government has warned federal and state agencies about the threat posed by hackers who may target computer systems responsible for operating nuclear plants, electric substations, oil and gas pipelines, transit systems, chemical facilities, and drinking water facilities. In February 2013, President Barack Obama issued a directive stating, “It is the policy of the United States to strengthen the security and resilience of its critical infrastructure against both physical and cyber threats.” Two years later the federal government has yet to develop or adopt a consensus on how to secure America’s critical infrastructure from cyber criminals.

  • China syndromeNew Chinese cyber rules aim to facilitate intellectual property theft: U.S. tech companies

    The Chinese government’s cyberspace policy group in late 2014 approved a 22-page document which contained strict procurement rules for technology vendors. Those rules would require U.S. firms selling computer equipment in China to turn over sensitive intellectual property — including source codes — submit their products for “intrusive security testing,” and use Chinese encryption algorithms. U.S. companies selling equipment to Chinese banks will be required to set up research and development centers in China, get permits for workers servicing technology equipment, and build “ports” which allow Chinese officials to manage and monitor data processed by their hardware. U.S. tech companies charge that the new rules would make it easier for China to steal U.S. companies’ intellectual property.

  • CybersecurityCyber protection of DHS’s and other federal facilities is weak: GAO

    While most cybersecurity threats against government agencies tend to focus on network and computer systems, a growing number of access control systems, responsible for regulating electricity use, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC), and the operation of secured doors and elevators are also vulnerable to hacking. .” GAO warns that despite the seriousness of the vulnerabilities, agencies tasked with securing federal facilities have not been proactive.

  • Cybersecurity researchU Wisconsin, shedding 1960s anti-classified research image, launches cybersecurity center

    A new cybersecurity research center being built in partnership with private firms and the University of Wisconsin(UW) system aims to attract high-tech research dollars to the state, but administrators must balance the secrecy required for classified research with the openness which is the foundation of academic science. The state legislature passed a 2014 law allowing UW to accept contract for classified work partly in hopes that the school system will lose the perception of being an anti-classified-research environment, a perception dating back to campus protests against military research in the 1960s.

  • Cybersecurity educationUniversities adding cybersecurity programs to their curricula to meet growing demand

    The cyberattacks of recent years have not only increased the demand for employees who understand the field of information assurance and cybersecurity, they have also created a demand in cybersecurity education. Universities across the country are adding cybersecurity concentrations to their curricula to train students who will later help secure network systems.

  • Critical infrastructureDHS releases the wrong FOIA-requested documents, exposing infrastructure vulnerabilities

    On 3 July 2014, DHS, responding to a Freedom of Information Act(FOIA) request on Operation Aurora, a malware attack on Google, instead released more than 800 pages of documents related to the Aurora Project, a 2007 research effort led by Idaho National Laboratoryto show the cyber vulnerabilities of U.S. power and water systems, including electrical generators and water pumps. The research project found that once these infrastructure systems are infiltrated, a cyberattack can remotely control key circuit breakers, thereby throwing a machine’s rotating parts out of synchronization and causing parts of the system to break down.

  • CybersecurityBolstering cybersecurity by taking a step back in time to analog security systems

    Richard Danzig, the vice chairman for the RAND Corporation and a former secretary of the navy, is saying it is timeto take a step back in time and incorporate analog security systems into cyber infrastructure. “Merge your system with something that is analog, physical, or human so that if the system is subverted digitally it has a second barrier to go through,” he said. “If I really care about something then I want something that is not just a digital input but a human or secondary consideration,” he says.

  • Nuclear safetyIf South Korea’s nuclear plant staff are vulnerable, then so are the reactors

    By Alan Woodward

    Does it matter that a South Korean nuclear plant was hacked and plans of the complex stolen? As it is South Korea that’s the subject of this latest attack, everyone tends to assume it must have had something to do with North Korea. With a target as sensitive as a nuclear power plant, not unreasonably people are asking if safety could be compromised by a cyberattack. Could hackers cause the next Chernobyl or Three Mile Island? This points to an important and infrequently discussed problem, the vulnerability of critical national infrastructure. Cyber-attacks like these are a great way of levelling the playing field: why invest in massively expensive nuclear weapons program if you can simply shut down your enemies’ power, gas, water, and transportation systems? Increasingly more and more infrastructure is connected to the Internet, with all the security risks that entails.