Risk
2/17/2010
06:48 PM
50%
50%

U.S. Fails Test In Simulated Cyberattack

Organizers, observers of 'Cyber Shockwave' conclude nation is not ready for the real thing

A large-scale simulated cyberattack on the U.S. yesterday proved one thing, according to organizers: The country isn't prepared for a real attack.

In a press release issued today, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) -- which organized "Cyber Shockwave" using a group of former government officials and computer simulations -- concluded the U.S is "unprepared for cyber threats."

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, who chaired the simulated National Security Council, says cyberterrorism "ought to be treated as a threat of sufficient seriousness that we give it the priority attention we've given weapons of mass destruction." Cyberterrorism is "more complicated by the fact that it involves every individual," Chertoff says. "Anybody who has a smartphone, who downloads an app, or gets on their PC is engaged in this process."

Reports from those who witnessed the simulation indicate that the U.S. defenders had difficulty identifying the source of the simulated attack, which in turn made it difficult to take action.

"During the exercise, a server hosting the attack appeared to be based in Russia," said one report. "However, the developer of the malware program was actually in the Sudan. Ultimately, the source of the attack remained unclear during the event."

The simulation envisioned an attack that unfolds during a single day in July 2011. When the council convenes to face this crisis, 20 million of the nation's smartphones have already stopped working. The attack -- the result of a malware program that had been planted in phones months earlier through a popular "March Madness" basketball bracket application -- disrupts mobile service for millions. The attack escalates, shutting down an electronic energy trading platform and crippling the power grid on the Eastern seaboard.

"A useful aspect of something like this simulation is it helps people visualize what is realistic and possible in some circumstances," says John McLaughlin, who played the role of director of national intelligence. "The smart thing is to prepare now, to do the legislation now, to do the bipartisan work now, to do the intelligence work now, the foreign policy work. These are all very complicated things, and we need to get started on them."

Stephen Friedman, who played the role of secretary of the Treasury, says of a potential cyberattack on the U.S.: "There is no question in my mind that this is a predictable surprise, and we need to get our acts together."

The panel of government officials agreed that cyberterrorism is a national security issue that needs to be addressed quickly and in a bipartisan manner. "It raises an issue of the system's responsibility to be able to come together in a nonpartisan way and figure out the answer to questions as opposed to kicking the can down the road until we're in an emergency," Chertoff says.

The exercise also raised legal questions regarding personal privacy versus national security. "We have to come to grips with the implications for our personal privacy and the relationship between the federal government and the private sector," says Jamie Gorelick, who played the role of attorney general.

"Cyber ShockWave demonstrated the tremendous challenges the government has in dealing with potential cyberattacks," says Jason Grumet, founder and president of the BPC. "Our goal for Cyber Shockwave was to identify real policy and preparedness issues that need to be addressed in order to combat an attack of this magnitude that escalates rapidly and is of unknown origin."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
Security Operations and IT Operations: Finding the Path to Collaboration
A wide gulf has emerged between SOC and NOC teams that's keeping both of them from assuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of IT systems. Here's how experts think it should be bridged.
Flash Poll
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
The transition from DevOps to SecDevOps is combining with the move toward cloud computing to create new challenges - and new opportunities - for the information security team. Download this report, to learn about the new best practices for secure application development.
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
In past years, security researchers have discovered ways to hack cars, medical devices, automated teller machines, and many other targets. Dark Reading Executive Editor Kelly Jackson Higgins hosts researcher Samy Kamkar and Levi Gundert, vice president of threat intelligence at Recorded Future, to discuss some of 2016's most unusual and creative hacks by white hats, and what these new vulnerabilities might mean for the coming year.