Print 10 comment(s) - last by Reclaimer77.. on Apr 19 at 7:18 PM

The U.S. and UK governments have invested billions over the last few years in spying on their citizens (so called "domestic surveillance" programs).  (Source: 911 Visibility)

Unfortunately, they haven't been putting anywhere near as much effort into safeguarding vital U.S. infrastructure like power, gas, and water.  (Source: U.S. Dept. of Labor)

Three quarters of U.S. advisors on a recent panel thought a catastrophic cyberattack would strike the U.S. within two years, due to the nation's weak defenses.  (Source: WTL Firm)
Hackers from Russia, China, and elsewhere target U.S.; defenses are weak even as domestic spying efforts soar

The U.S. recently was accused of unleashing the Stuxnet worm, a virus capable of affecting a variety of industrial systems.  The worm sought to make its way through systems at Iran's Bushehr or Natanz nuclear facilities -- and apparently it succeeded, doing major damage to these systems, once it infected them.

In the process, the worm infected approximately 40 percent of utilities' computers worldwide.  Some speculate the worm's authors underestimate the number of industrials systems it would infect or how far outside Iran it would spread. 

U.S. cybersecurity expert Stewart Baker, a former US national security advisor to President George W Bush, describes in an interview with BBC News, "It probably didn't result in any obvious interference with the systems, because it wasn't designed to do that. But the fact that it spread so widely and could have done so if it had been differently designed is very, very troubling if you are worried about cyber attacks by hostile nations or extortion attempts by well organized criminal gangs."

Cybersecurity experts are concerned about a growing number of attacks on critical infrastructure.  And the U.S. is not alone in being suspected of conducting attacks on other nations' infrastructure.  Russia and China are both suspected of targeting critical foreign infrastructure, including U.S. utilities, with cyber-attacks.

In a 2009 survey by security firm McAffee (a division of Intel Corp. (INTC)) only half of utilities reported their networks were being targeted by hackers.  By last year [press releasePDF] that number rose to 8 out of 10.  The survey polled 200 IT executives working for utility companies in 14 countries.

The vast majority of attacks affected the websites of utilities.  Most did not succeed in penetrating actual critical systems, as the Stuxnet worm did.  Still the attacks give cause for concern.  

Mr. Baker says that an upcoming distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) has a very real possibility of causing much more serious damage in the near future.  He comments, "We asked what the likelihood was of a major attack that causes significant outage. That is one that causes severe loss of services for at least 24 hours, loss of life or personal injury or failure of a company. Three quarters thought it would happen within the next two years."

McAffee's 2010 survey also asked customers how much support they received from their government.  It found that the Japanese government ranked highest in the support it provided, followed by China and the United Arab Emirates.  The United States score very low and its close ally Britain scored even worse, receiving the very lowest mark.  

In short, the U.S. and British governments aren't doing much to protect their nations' businesses even in the face of serious attacks on critical infrastructure.

Both nations have promised to reevaluate their cybersecurity efforts in statements.  However, those promises might be familiar.  In recent years both the U.S. and Britain have released constant promises that they will "try harder" when it comes to cybersecurity.  While both nations dramatically expanded their domestic surveillance programs, their efforts to fight foreign attacks have been weak at best.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Hypocrits?
By WoWCow on 4/19/2011 5:05:10 PM , Rating: 3
I don't know what the intent of your comment is, but I'll bite and give it my answer(s).

Why would politicians protect businesses from technical assaults? It's up to the businesses to supply their own protections. I'm not thrilled with the government, which has its own security problems, offering "technical assistance" to companies that should have had these protections in place already. If anything, the politicians "protected" them by looking the other way, when any fool could have told you cyber threats would be problematic.

1. Government exists to protect the people and the property of the people they are responsible for (AKA Tax payers/Donors).

2. You may not be thrilled about the government rendering their service to companies, but would you be thrilled if the said companies didn't render their services to the people and the government? It is a complicated exchange of services.

3. I suppose the 'looking the other way' you meant government sanction of monopoly and oligarchy. Yes, this is despicable as it deprives the people (the government is responsible for) their personal and economic freedom to choose.

But here's one solution: get off the damn Internet. These companies make enough money that they can use private lines to exchange information between sites and companies, like the banks do. We're talking small amounts of data here; it's not like you need optical fiber with 10Gbit interfaces everywhere. And use encryption, firewalls, IDS/IPS, etc... These are standard items for any network.

1. I apologize, but I do not understand who you would want to get off the internet - where exchange of information takes place freely and quickly. Companies rely on the internet now to reduce cost and maximize profit.

2. Certainly, those companies can develop private lines - but who to develop and how to build it is another issue. Even the banks adhere to the government(s) and their laws last I recall. And in certain cases, governments ignore/sanction attacks on banks.

3. Evidently, critical structures responsible for millions of lives is a small amount of data to you. If you need to be reminded, some of the power structures in the US dates back to the early to mid 20th century - completely upgrading them is prohibitively expensive to local government and utility companies. A critical issue here is how and where can you get the money and transition procedure in place without bureaucracy and money.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

Most Popular Articles5 Cases for iPhone 7 and 7 iPhone Plus
September 18, 2016, 10:08 AM
Automaker Porsche may expand range of Panamera Coupe design.
September 18, 2016, 11:00 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM
No More Turtlenecks - Try Snakables
September 19, 2016, 7:44 AM
ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment in Children: Problem or Paranoia?
September 19, 2016, 5:30 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki