Digital Conflict

By Kevin Coleman

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Kevin Coleman

A major milestone in US cyberspace operations

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 by Kevin Coleman on Oct 18, 2012 at 9:26 PM

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