A number of questions have been raised lately that are generating some interesting discussions about the role of the United Nations in cyber warfare and peacekeeping efforts.
While the United Nations is active in the cyber domain, its role, mission and objectives are less clear. For example, in one recent conversation a cyber warfare subject matter expert asked, "What would a United Nations cyber conflict peacekeeping force look like, and how would it respond to significant acts of cyber aggression?"
Perhaps a better question would be whether United Nations' cyber peacekeepers would be able to keep a cyberattack from escalating into an all out cyber war. Given the United Nations' activities in arms treaties and control, is there a role here for cyber arms control?
When we consider such factors as the significant growth of cyber crime, the proliferation of cyber weapons, and the use of cyberspace by terrorist organizations to recruit, train and conduct other activities, it seems some action on the part of the United Nations is necessary. Added to this is the fact that some cyberattack attribution appears to be an exchange of weapons to fire between nations.
The Internet is a component of peace and security, global development, human affairs and has a substantial impact on International law--all areas of focus for the United Nations. It just seems that cyber conflict is a good fit for the United Nations' portfolio of activities. That being said, addressing the numerous cyber areas listed above will be a huge challenge. That is why there is a clear need and activity in the area of cyber diplomacy. The U.S. State Department started this due to the broad range of U.S. interests in cyberspace.
Make no mistake about it, cyber diplomacy is part of modern diplomatic relations in the highly connected world we live in. It will only grow from here.
Posted on Nov 08, 2012 at 7:01 PM2 comments
An executive at Kaspersky Lab just warned that global cyber warfare is in “full swing” and will probably escalate in 2013. Those are very dangerous words. This comes on the heels of a series of cyberattacks targeting the financial sector; specifically, on U.S. banks, which has entered its fifth week. The successful attacks were against the websites of some of the largest U.S. banks, and by all accounts these sites were well constructed and defended. Consider for a moment the amount of web traffic needed to overload these websites; it is not trivial, that is for sure. It is said to be one of if not the largest cyberattacks in history. This clearly speaks to the level of capabilities of the attackers as well as their determination.
As I noted in my previous blog, cybersecurity professionals have pointed the finger at Iran as the entity behind the attacks. There have been those who have expressed the view that the recent cyberattacks that have been targeting U.S. banks is retaliatory cyber fire for Stuxnet, Duqu, Flame and Mini-Flame malware that has targeted infrastructure systems (e.g., nuclear enrichment and oil production) in Iran. It should be noted that Russia also was implemented in the cyberattacks by Carl Herberger, a vice president at network security firm Radware. This seems to be supported by the claim made by an unnamed private security professional who stated that a closed-door meeting about these cyberattacks recently took place at the White House. Bear in mind that President Obama is reportedly considering issuing an executive order on cybersecurity in place of the legislation, which is stalled in Congress, as I also mentioned.
Are we in a cyber war? Just what level of cyberattack constitutes an act of war? If this is an act of war, will kinetic weapons be included in our response to these malicious cyber activities? So many questions remain unanswered.
Posted on Oct 25, 2012 at 2:46 PM0 comments
It finally happened. On Oct. 13, I went to Starbucks and was floored when I saw the weekend issue of the Wall Street Journal on the newsstand. The headline, in boldface, across the top of the front page read: U.S. Says Iran Is Behind Cyberattacks. To my knowledge this has never happened before, so it is truly a major milestone in the evolution of cyber as a national security threat. Now add to that story the recent claims that Iran was behind the recent cyberattacks on oil production, processing and transmission capabilities in the Persian Gulf.
In an Oct. 11 news conference, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Chairman warned that the cyber threat from Iran has grown. He appeared before reporters with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff GEN Martin Dempsey. Panetta is quoted as saying that Iran has “undertaken a concerted effort to use cyberspace to its advantage.” Add to that the comments of some very senior level U.S. officials who have openly stated they believe China and Russia may be actively collaborating with the Iranian cyber forces, and through this arms-length working relationship the Iranians will gain valuable insight into U.S. cyber defense. It is almost like a real-life applied research project and would explain the acceleration of Iranian cyber capabilities seen lately.
Many believe that the risk of a devastating cyberattack on the United States has never been higher. This risk has even made it into the 2012 presidential elections. Leaked information suggests that President Barack Obama is considering an executive order that would force critical infrastructure providers (owners and operators) to meet minimum cybersecurity standards that are jointly developed. On the other side, Republican challenger Mitt Romney has stated that, within his first 100 days in office, he would order the development of a national strategy to defend and work to prevent cyberattacks against the nation. Things have definitely heated up in cyberspace.
Posted on Oct 18, 2012 at 2:46 PM0 comments
Since my testimony and authoring a restricted report for a Congressional Commission back in 2009, I have been very concerned about the threat of malicious circuitry or code within microprocessors. In fact, several of my blog postings have addressed this threat. The year following that testimony the U.S. Navy disclosed that its investigation found that it (the Navy) had purchased 59,000 microchips that were being used in everything from missiles to transponders, which were counterfeits from China. I also covered the introduction of legislation “Combating Military Counterfeits Act of 2011” to reduce this threat.
This week the results of a year-long Congressional investigation were made public. That investigation concluded, based on available classified and unclassified information, that Chinese telecom companies Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to be free of influence from Beijing and could be used to undermine the security of the United States. That’s right, this could pose a national cybersecurity threat. The United States is not the only country with these concerns. Earlier this year Australia barred, on national security grounds, Huawei from participating in the $36 billion national broadband network.
The reality is that critical infrastructure providers, the defense industrial base, and our military and intelligence organizations have awakened to the threats posed by a global supply chain. Supply chain risks are many and will not go away. For years now global sourcing has been used as a tool for competitive advantage (i.e., low price provider). Times are changing and now sourcing within the country of use or a trusted partner country likely will be added as a tool for competitive advantage via national security.
Posted on Oct 11, 2012 at 12:54 PM1 comments