Digital Conflict blog


Kevin Coleman

Digital Conflict

By Kevin Coleman

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An opportunity for proactive cyber defense

Many people may not realize it, but the health care sector is the fourth most targeted industry segment when it comes to cyberattacks. The reason for this growing problem becomes clear when you examine the details of medical identity theft. Research has indicated that a stolen medical identity has a current street value of $50. Now compare that to the current street value of stolen credit card data that is about $1.50 per data set in that same period of time.

One 2010 study found that 1.42 million Americans were victims of medical identity theft with an annual loss of more than $40 billion. This figure is at least partially driven by the fact that nearly 60 percent of those surveyed say they don't ever check their medical records for fraud, according to one published study.

The Defense Department, in conjunction with the Veterans Administration, recently announced it would be accelerating its implementation of its Integrated Electronic Health Record (iEHR) system. When you combine these two efforts, it will produce the largest EHR system in the world.

The iEHR will serve 9.7 million military personnel through 59 military hospitals and 7.8 million veterans through 152 VA hospitals. As you can guess, cyber attackers will undoubtedly consider this a target-rich-environment with an estimated street value of over $800 million (based on the above metrics).

An even greater expense is the cost to resolve instances of medical identity theft. A 2012 survey revealed that, on average, an estimated 2 million Americans become victims of medical identity theft each and every year, with a mean value of roughly $41 billion. This represents a jump from the $30.9 billion estimated in 2011. The per instance cost also increase to $22,346 from $20,663 in 2011.

The DOD and the VA have the opportunity to get ahead of the curve and be proactive rather than the standard approach of being reactive on cybersecurity. They can build cybersecurity into this system rather than trying to bolt it on after the system is complete and nearing operation. They can take an aggressive cyber defense posture and even deliver the cybersecurity awareness training for all the users (patients as well as health care providers and IT staff) that will be accessing and managing the iEHR data.

Posted on Dec 20, 2012 at 12:55 PM0 comments


EMP weapons now a reality

An event took place October 2012 in the Utah desert that escaped the attention of most. Boeing successful tested an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) device mounted within a missile. When I first reported on the early development of these weapons back in 2007 many scoffed and claimed all of this hype was pure fiction. Well it became a scientific fact.

The code name give to the program was CHAMP, which stands for Counter-electronics High-power Microwave Advanced Missile Project. A video camera and wiring was shielded and remotely monitored by a room full of computers as the test took place. The video is impressive and I encourage you to watch it. Toward the end of the video the electronics of the camera appears to fails said to be due to the electronic waves penetrating through the unshielded lens.

Here is a link to a Boeing video of a similar, successful test and demonstration of an EMP weapon’s capabilities: http://www.boeing.com/Features/2012/10/bds_champ_10_22_12.html.

Coverage of this latest, successful EMP test ran in the London Times and the piece made it clear that such an EMP weapon could cripple Iran by destroying its electronic systems. A targeted EMP attack would clearly impact the control system computers and programmable logic controllers used in Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

Like other cyber weapons, EMPs are weapons of mass disruption. Cyber weapons experts were quick to react to this latest development stating that it’s official, the U.S. Air Force has created and field-tested an EMP weapon. For some time now Iran and North Korea are known to have funded EMP research and development programs and their progress has been thought to be limited.

One has to wonder if the news of this development will prompt other governments to accelerate their development efforts.

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 at 12:55 PM1 comments


Proposed Internet regulation would not include some nations

The World Conference on International Telecommunications that will take place December 3-14, 2012, will meet and consider updating the only existing global treaty on telecommunications.  

This treaty was established to facilitate the international interconnection and interoperability of information and communication services. The Telecommunication Development Bureau and entity under the  International Telecommunications Union created a report titled "Trends in Telecommunication Reform 2012; Smart Regulation for a Broadband World." The summary report is well worth reading.

Also said to be on the agenda is an Internet monitoring proposal (some call it content control) that is thought to be backed by a few countries. The News Limited Network in Australia reported: "A recently formulated document that was developed in obscurity was posted on the ITU website." It appears that this document was created in response to the growing number of threats countries face in cyberspace. It is believed that if adopted the proposal would allow government restriction on or blocking of information posted on the Internet. In addition, it would establish a global Internet communications monitoring entity.

This has spurred a very hot discussion about those who wish to exert control over content on the Internet. As I am sure you are aware, this has been an issue for some time now.  There are numerous interpretations of the posted document, and they vary greatly. One statement refers to a call for the 193 United Nations member countries to increase their regulatory control over the Internet and address the threats to cybersecurity. According the CIA Factbook there are there are 231 countries now connected to the Internet. So what about the 38 countries not part of the United Nations?

Posted on Dec 06, 2012 at 9:03 AM1 comments


What was the motive behind the secret directive on cybersecurity?

Information recently was leaked to the press and quickly became public about a classified presidential policy directive, PPD-20, that was signed by President Obama just weeks before the presidential election. This is the latest leak of sensitive or classified information, and it has many people wondering if we have lost our ability to keep a secret. 

While details are scarce, the general consensus of experts and of the reporting community is that this executive order established the rules of engagement when it comes to cyberattacks on the United States. The directive is said to set forth a set of standards that are to be used as a guide for the response and operations of federal agencies to confronting cyber threats. Sources report that offensive and defensive cyber actions are defined in detail for the first time. Integral to these standards is a set of definitions and thresholds or lines for cyber conflict, which if crossed would constitute an act of war against the country.

This action came on the heels of several federal executives warning of the implications of a successful cyberattack on the nation’s critical infrastructure. When you look at these recent comments and warnings, together with the signing of PPD-20, it raises some interesting questions. For example, why in what was thought to be a very tight election would the president take this action and risk increased criticism that the White House is closed and acts on its own? Is the clock ticking? Are all the comments and warnings accidental, or are they part of a coordinated effort due to threat intelligence about a pending cyberattack? The answers to these questions are not known.  Only time will provide those answers.

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 at 12:55 PM1 comments


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