Today, in the presence of globalization, the world depends on the Internet. What would happen should the Internet not work for just one day? In reality not much.

Fear mongers fan the flames of the cyber-warfare threat. The old media participates in this practice with other prominent Luddites. Cyber-warfare is not a new concept at all, and is often misrepresented by media (Terminator 3 anyone?). Tragically, some people still trust the media as an unbiased, accurate, and accountable entity for news and information. This week the New York Times decided to run a piece on cyber-warfare.

Titled “Bit Wars When Computers Attack”, the article presents the world with an excellent slew of misinformation. Starting with the introduction picture with a news reporter (hat, gloves, coat and all) with a laptop hovering, open, between his hands. On the screen of the laptop is a high-voltage electricity transmission line with flames on the towers supporting the cables. In the background is a similar set of transmission lines with a lack of combustion. This artistic bit demonstrates the utter lack of understanding of the subject at hand on the part of the artists and his/her informant. The piece also belongs under the attention getter category, in which it may intentionally misrepresent the subject at hand. Ironically, the author would have you believe in the article that such events could occur due to a cyber attack.
First off, regarding the shock-and-awe picture, there is no way the depicted fires could develop. Especially in the location pictured on the laptop screen. Aluminum and galvanized steel (the two different materials used for making most non-wooden power poles) typically do not burn in any spectacular way, unless combined as termite. For the plumes of smoke to develop as shown in the picture, some hydrocarbon rich substance is needed. Such substances are not found at such a location in a transmission line tower.

…security experts envision terrorists at a keyboard remotely shutting down factory floors or opening a dam’s floodgates to devastate cities downstream.

Contrary to popular belief, most computer systems are not connected to the Internet. The computers controlling the production of cereals at General Mills most likely are not connected to the Internet, nor are the computers controlling the various nuclear power plants or missile silos in the United States. Any benefits gained buy such networks becomes negligible when compared to the security risks. Additionally, every major power generation facility in the United States has staff monitoring the facilities 24/7, and they have more control over the facility than any external source is allowed. Terrorists can not remotely trigger the meltdown of a power plant, or launch of a US nuclear missile without having a ‘mole’ helping them.

An all-out cyberconflict (sic) could have huge impacts, said Danny McPherson.

Stopping an all-out ‘cyberconflict’ after it begins requires a few simple steps. First, close off all external network connections. Second, identify the attacking IP addresses, connection logs are useful for this. Next, ban these IP address ranges (Block entire class A ranges is necessary). Lastly, if a military is available launch a counter strike on the real location of the offending party leaving their country, technologically, at least 1000 years behind the rest of the world. That would put an end to all cyber-squabbling. As for the ‘huge impact’, once the war moves from the virtual to real world people typically wimp out, and thus the only huge impact is the sudden lack of cyber-conflicts. Sure, the offending country may no longer exist. Then again war is hell and that is nothing new.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

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