Risk
2/17/2011
07:44 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Cyberwar: Experts Have Hard Time Defining It, Let Alone Defending Against It

Rather than wait for a catastrophic event, government and private industry should develop a framework for dealing with state sponsored attacks aimed at the critical infrastructure.

Rather than wait for a catastrophic event, government and private industry should develop a framework for dealing with state sponsored attacks aimed at the critical infrastructure.Although, after watching the panel, one wasn't left with any level of confidence that such a plan would be put into place.

The panel, Cyberwar, Cybersecurity, and the Challenges Ahead, moderated by James Lewis, director and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies included Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security; Bruce Schneier, chief technology security officer at BT; and McConnell, former director of national intelligence and former director of the NSA.

To kick things off, James Lewis asks the audience if Stuxnet, operation Aurora, and other similar attacks are, indeed, acts of cyberwar. Some hands went up in agreement that those types of events are acts of war, more attendees however didn't think so.

The panel seemed no more capable of hanging a definition to the term, either. But they did agree, generally, that there is a lot of nastiness that needs to be better controlled. As CSIS' Lewis put it: "We are not in a state of cyberwar, but we are in something that is dangerous."

What do we do about it? Chances are the nation will wait for some catastrophic event argued former intelligence chief Mike McConnell. McConnell expressed doubt that the nation would come together to put into place the policies and public/private partnerships necessary to defend state-sponsored advanced attacks against the critical infrastructure.

McConnell and Chertoff also agreed that vanilla digital espionage and information theft don't rise to Cyberwar. And any such designiation would depend on the scale and the amount of data destroyed in an attack. "I tend to look at security as a spectrum of challenges, and I draw a bright line between theft and espionage and then the destruction of systems," Certoff said. "It depends upon the scale [of the destruction] and its genesis as to whether it is war," he said.

To crystallize his point, Certoff said that as a nation we tolerated state-level spying and the stealing of national secrets without labeling it an act of war, but added that "stealing and espionage are much different things that a sustained attack on the power grid."

Schneier, however, made a case that Cyberwar is a sexy term and a term that sells and opens government budget coffers. "There's a lot of push for budget and power and overstating the threat is a good way to get people scared."

Regardless, it's a dangerous Internet and likely to stay that way for some time. As for potential solutions, the panel put forth little more than increasing regulatory demands on companies to secure their networks and increasing the liability responsibilities for those that fail to protect their systems.

So, as we've dealt with viruses, e-mail based attacks, worms, network breaches, and most every other type of attack - so too will we probably deal with state-backed cyber attacks. And that's to deal with it after the fact, just as McConnell predicts.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-3051
Published: 2014-10-29
The Internet Service Monitor (ISM) agent in IBM Tivoli Composite Application Manager (ITCAM) for Transactions 7.1 and 7.2 before 7.2.0.3 IF28, 7.3 before 7.3.0.1 IF30, and 7.4 before 7.4.0.0 IF18 does not verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof s...

CVE-2014-3668
Published: 2014-10-29
Buffer overflow in the date_from_ISO8601 function in the mkgmtime implementation in libxmlrpc/xmlrpc.c in the XMLRPC extension in PHP before 5.4.34, 5.5.x before 5.5.18, and 5.6.x before 5.6.2 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (application crash) via (1) a crafted first argument t...

CVE-2014-3669
Published: 2014-10-29
Integer overflow in the object_custom function in ext/standard/var_unserializer.c in PHP before 5.4.34, 5.5.x before 5.5.18, and 5.6.x before 5.6.2 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (application crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code via an argument to the unserialize function ...

CVE-2014-3670
Published: 2014-10-29
The exif_ifd_make_value function in exif.c in the EXIF extension in PHP before 5.4.34, 5.5.x before 5.5.18, and 5.6.x before 5.6.2 operates on floating-point arrays incorrectly, which allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (heap memory corruption and application crash) or possibly exec...

CVE-2014-3694
Published: 2014-10-29
The (1) bundled GnuTLS SSL/TLS plugin and the (2) bundled OpenSSL SSL/TLS plugin in libpurple in Pidgin before 2.10.10 do not properly consider the Basic Constraints extension during verification of X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and ob...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.