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US Unable To Win a Cyber War 327

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-that's-not-encouraging dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The inability to deflect even a simulated cyber attack or mitigate its effects shown in an exercise that took place some six days ago at Washington's Mandarin Oriental Hotel doesn't bode well for the US. Mike McConnell, the former Director of National Intelligence, said to the US Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee yesterday that if the US got involved in a cyber war at this moment, they would surely lose. 'We're the most vulnerable. We're the most connected. We have the most to lose,' he stated. Three years ago, McConnell referred to cybersecurity as the 'soft underbelly of this country' and it's clear that he thinks things haven't changed much since then."
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US Unable To Win a Cyber War

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  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:31PM (#31260558)

    If you watched the broadcast of this exercise on CNN, you heard many people arguing for things that the government just can't do such as ordering telcos to disable all smartphones, suspending rights, and even nationalizing the power companies.

    They spent so much time being told by the simulated AG what they couldn't do, they didn't have time left to discuss what they could do.

    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:35PM (#31260618)

      What they don't understand is that it isn't going to be the government or the military that responds to a real cyber attack, it's going to be a nation wide army of several hundred thousand IT admins working 70 hour weeks to keep their companies secure and operational. Once solutions are found they'll be posted to the web and disseminated faster than the new attacks can be devised. In short, cyberwarfare won't work for the exact same reasons that censorship won't work, there's too many people working against the attackers who can communicate too quickly and too effectively.

      Or, to put it another way, http://xkcd.com/705 [xkcd.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by toastar (573882)

        Who would we be at war with? And what would it look like? I already block Large blocks of IPs from china/russia.

        Actually this is a better example http://xkcd.com/538/ [xkcd.com]

        just imagine in the left panel it's the goverment imagining needing all these 4 amendment violations and the right one is a sysadmin pulling out network cable from the router that connects the supposed country we would be at cyberwar with.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by pv2b (231846)

          Except it probably won't be as simple as lots of evil malicious traffic originating from... say... the hypothetical Peoples Republic of Anich.

          And then you can just block all of Anich and you won't be under attack any more.

          The traffic of such a cyberattack could conceivably originate from all over the world, including from your own country - originating from compromised personal computers with fast broadband connections. Or even from the very modems or Internet sharing devices that connect their homes to the

          • by zappepcs (820751)

            I don't know, a couple of hearty men on a couple of random ships seems to be able to cut off most of the world from the Internet. If you planned it just right, that sysadmin might be on the bridge of a boat, but pull the plug he could.

            Foolproof solutions only make smarter fools.

            It would not take too long to programmaticly identify and block/drop/disconnect any IP on your network, daisy chain that effort, and you start making parts of the network dark, but it will shut down the attack, legal issues aside. If

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by pv2b (231846)

              I don't know, a couple of hearty men on a couple of random ships seems to be able to cut off most of the world from the Internet.

              That might work well for some countries which are connected only with a small amount of cables. Not so much for the United States, probably the best-connected country in the world. I'd be incredibly surprised if anyone (that doesn't work at an ISP or a telco) would even notice if two or three cables connecting the united states to the world were severed. BGP will find another way.

              • by cenc (1310167)

                Problem is that much of the United States online biz is really offshore biz.

          • I knew we should have installed a factory reset button on the internet.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by marcosdumay (620877)

              "I knew we should have installed a factory reset button on the internet."

              If nothing else, that would make the transition to IPv6 much easier...

          • by Dalambertian (963810) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @02:39PM (#31262532)
            Agreed. The biggest threat to national security is probably windows XP. Here's an idea: let's start teaching high school students something other than Word and Excel, hmm?
        • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:59PM (#31261006) Journal

          You fail to realize that it is not "one network cable" that connects us to (lets say China). The robustness of the internet means that every route to China must be cut in order to stop the attack.

          That means England has to cut their ties with China. And France. And so on and so forth until everyone that North America Can access no longer has access to China. If we leave the pipes open to India, and India is still open to China, thats a route through to the US. Thus we resort to IP Blocking, but then spoofing and Proxies comes into play - making things more complex.

          The other solution to stop the attack, is to disconnect all the network cables that access any other country. Leaving you with an internet that spans North America Alone.

          Personally, if it ever comes to a cyber war, I think it will boil down into a World War kind of thing. One side will cut ties and allegiances will be made. The West will be on their own private network and the rest of the world on theirs, creating two out of sync "Internets".

          • by TheKidWho (705796)

            Yes, and once the war is over talks will begin on who gets to control what domain names.

          • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:24PM (#31261350)

            Why would any of that happen???
            The internet is essentially millions of walled and gated communities.
            Everything that any hypothetical attacker could try is already being done by the legions of script kiddies right through to highly paid top notch programmers working for organised criminal groups.

            If any hypothetical attacker from china or *scary place* wanted to launch a DDoS attack why would they write anything of their own when they can just pay for bandwidth from one of the big botnet herders?
            Government entities hardly have a monopoly on hackers.

            A million Sys admins the world over already deal with these problems every single day of the year.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Why would you assume that a Cyber war would consist of conventional "Attacks"?

              Of course they aren't going to DDoS, that's something a million Sys admins the world over already deal with every single day of the year.

              I think more damage could be done with Rootkits and backdoors than a DDoS ever could. And believe me, the kind that would be employed are not the kind that script kiddies use every friday night. The kind that would be employed would end up being engineered into the hardware, something China regul

              • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:43PM (#31261682)

                read:
                http://webtorque.org/wp-content/uploads/malware_biz.pdf [webtorque.org]

                The organised malware business is already leagues ahead of anything script kiddies use.
                it's embraced outsourcing.
                The people writing viruses these days are professionals.
                They're not doing it for the lulz like when we were kids, it's cold hard business.
                They teenagers who used to write viruses which turned your mouse into a penis have grown up and now they're not going to do anything unless there's cash in it for them.
                The rootkits that are out there are already more advanced than the rootkit detectors and even the best AV programs have perhaps a 20% hit rate. (not miss rate)

                They already have countermeasures ready for security measures that we haven't even deployed yet

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Mister Whirly (964219)
                Which raises the question: If the US is so vulnerable, why hasn't this happened already? What is preventing the type of attacks they were simulating? It seems to me either the US is not as vulnerable as claimed to be, or there is really no interest in cyber-attacking the US. I know one of them is false, and suspect the other may be as well.
          • by Xarius (691264)

            Personally, if it ever comes to a cyber war, I think it will boil down into a World War kind of thing. One side will cut ties and allegiances will be made. The West will be on their own private network and the rest of the world on theirs, creating two out of sync "Internets".

            Considering the significant language barrier between the East and the West, what would we (in the west) really be losing out on?

            • Is that why I can Visit Shanghai and not need to know a word of Chinese? The East has a rather large English speaking population, the language barrier is not as big as it was say 5 years ago.

              As for what we'd be losing out on - It's really more complex than just the internet. If we decide to cut of internet ties we're probably cutting off trade as well. And I can't imagine North America functioning well without China's production.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by gmuslera (3436)

            The other solution to stop the attack, is to disconnect all the network cables that access any other country. Leaving you with an internet that spans North America Alone

            There are 2 kinds of denial of service attacks:
            - The one where i fill your connections/process/whatever so noone else could access you
            - The one where i just scare you, and you turn off your servers because big bad wolf is somewhere outside

            Guess wich one is the more effective, and will damage you (and probably everyone else) more.

          • by Sleepy (4551)

            You can't even effectively cut off the rest of the world as you state. Assuming you blacken all satellite and undersea cables, you'd also have to cut all landlines as well, or someone can dial into the US-Internet.

            And even cutting landlines would not be effective, as satellite phones cross all national boundaries. You'd have to blast those out of the sky also... all of them, including your own.

            If a war like this happens, I hope we survive enough to defile the graves of every one of our leaders who opted to

      • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:45PM (#31260786) Journal

        In short, cyberwarfare won't work for the exact same reasons that censorship won't work, there's too many people working against the attackers who can communicate too quickly and too effectively.

        Quiet, you fool! Imagine if they can convince the United States government that part of its defense budget should go to increasing cyber security! We already know the DoD uses Linux [aviationweek.com] and wants more [slashdot.org]. Just think what a very tiny fraction of the US Defense budget could do for security in Linux and its subsequent adoption for corporations!

        And for those of you that argue the enemy will then use Linux: who cares? Bullet proof protection on both sides would prevent any attempt of an offensive from ever sparking a war. In light of recent economic ups and downs, I would argue at this point it's more important to make the corporations feel 100% safe and secure -- unlike Google in China.

        • by BobMcD (601576)

          When did Linux boxes eliminate human interface? How do the operate without using fallible things such as passwords? When did the migration happen?

      • by wsanders (114993) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:57PM (#31260962) Homepage

        We are BOFH. You want Mutual Assured Destruction? We make the USAF look like wusses.

      • by Sleepy (4551)

        You obviously don't worry about backdoors in routers, switches, network cards, motherboard BIOS, etc.
        What if I am China and I use one of these to rootkit your box. I might not be out for damage, but just to collect intelligence. How would you KNOW?

        next let's assume you have an inkling something's going on.
        Are you going to rebuild the Windows kernel on a safe PC, checksum it, then bring it and all the other files to repair the damage?
        Unlikely for many reasons.

        So you start to rebuild your PC from the install

      • You got it. Just as our Grandparents rose up to fight the tyranny of the Nazis and to free Europe and Asia from the Axis powers, we shall take up arms with our servers, firewalls and steady supply of caffeinated beverages! To battle my brothers!

      • How many "accidental" undersea cable cuts in 2008? ...just saying...

        -- Terry

    • The upside to that, is now we know what failed during the exercise, so policies and training can focus on those failed areas. I didn't expect things to go flawlessly, and I think that anyone who did is not a realist. The fact of the matter is that they were not prepared for such an event. That's fine (It really is!). What's imperative is that now that we know that breakdowns occurred, and more importantly where they occurred, we can start to fix those breakdowns... It's the natural progress of trying t
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HungryHobo (1314109)

        How could it have gone any other way?

        They put a crowd of idiots who couldn't find their arses with both hands, didn't know the law, didn't know about the internet and didn't know about technology in a room and then expected them to do what?
        Make sensible choices?

        If you want good decisions in that situation you get a small group of experienced sys admins, a couple of really really good lawyers and one person with enough authority and enough sense to keep quiet who's job it is to shout at people until the plan

    • They didn't know that those things couldn't be done. Would you rather they found out during an exercise, or in a real emergency? Remember, these are not technical people.

      • They didn't know that those things couldn't be done. Would you rather they found out during an exercise, or in a real emergency? Remember, these are not technical people.

        Then there should be someone who *does* know what can be done.

        But are we talking "technically" or "legally". That our lawmakers don't know what is and is not legal is a pretty disturbing thought.

        • by wiredog (43288)

          There was someone there. Several people (legal, technical, and other) who said "You can't do that..."

          Also, these weren't lawmakers, they were from the executive branch. Various levels of managers, mostly senior.

    • by sznupi (719324) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:46PM (#31260804) Homepage

      I wonder how much of this new fear has to do with revving up support for ACTA/etc.

    • Wow, they are lobbying to able to shut down cell phone service and internet access when the companies (supposedly under attack) are "unwilling" to do so. I'm glad I'm not a conspiracy theorist or I would be under the table right now wearing my tinfoil hat. To me it sounds more like a South American regime worried about a coup than the "home of the free."

    • by couchslug (175151)

      We what we need are actual cyber attacks to build system immunity, just as virus and malware attack coerce countermeasures.

    • by Dr. Evil (3501)

      A lot could be said for creating a PGP signed mailing list based on a web-of-trust and requiring a government certifier in the trust. Then we could at least share contact information, verify authenticity of requests in the event of attacks and keep reactions to changes in infrastructure confidential. Include key signing in the certification process for basic government clearance.

      An announcement mailing list could keep us abreast of potential problems... ideally just a monthly "this is a test of the emer

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @02:46PM (#31262618) Homepage Journal

      even nationalizing the power companies.

      I'm all for that, cyberwar or no. Maybe not have the power companies run by the US government, but by local or county governments. My gas company Amerin is a private utility that is a power company as well in most of the state, my electric comppany is CWLP, owned and operated by the city. The difference between these two utilities is astounding.

      CWLP has excellent customer service, the lowest rates and the highest uptime of any electric utility in the state, and makes a tidy profit for the city as well, offsetting taxes that would otherwise have to be paid. My gas company, otoh, makes Comcast look good. The reason is simple: if CWLP's customer service goes bad, if the power is out much, or if the rates go up too much the Mayor loses his job.

      Amerin's customer service is abysmal, but what is one to do? Many local folks have gone all-electric because of their shodddiness. There isn't even a local office to pay the bill, you have to snail mail it or go to a currency exchange and pay an extra dollar. It's not like you can go to the other gas company down the street, and propane is out of the question. Because of this, they are not beholden to anyone but the stockholders.

      The free market works well when there is a free market, but there is no free market when it comes to utilities or any other natural monopoly. I'd like to see all utilities taken over by local or county governments. The customer has at least some say then.

  • by Krneki (1192201) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:33PM (#31260580)
    a.k.a. All your base are belong to us.
  • Duh. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:34PM (#31260600) Homepage

    Tell us something we don't know. When script kiddies can invade government networks, I'd say that we are pretty much screwed if an all-out digital conflict were to happen.

    • If it helps the US has more script kiddies than almost anyone else and I somehow doubt that many other countries have fantastic security either.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:34PM (#31260606)

    More government intervention and monitoring of the Internet, to be outsourced to 3rd party vendors which are politically connected?

    Nah, couldn't happen.

  • by calibre-not-output (1736770) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:34PM (#31260608) Homepage
    Given the completely ignorant approach the Legislative and Judiciary powers in the United States of Jeebus have taken to the Internet, I am not surprised that the Executive power is also doing it wrong.
  • Propaganda (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:37PM (#31260638)

    Pretext to OpenID and government surveillance.

    • This is nothing but propaganda.

      The term cyber-war is a dumbed down and meaningless term, just likes "series-of-tubes internet" to scare people, and spread ignorance about the topic of security.

  • by adosch (1397357) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:38PM (#31260660)

    To me, all that pony show was six days ago was a mock news and propaganda freak show. It just showed that congressional leadership and suit monkeys couldn't deal with the situation, it didn't say anything about whether our infrastructure or the closet tech experts in charge of it could effectively deal with it.

    I also might add, "GNN" did a pretty poor job, too. I didn't catch all of it, but the little I did, it also showed me that there's also an inability on the news reporting front, too.

  • by bugi (8479) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:38PM (#31260678)

    Luckily, I've setup my server farm in my old bomb shelter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Krneki (1192201)

      Luckily, I've setup my server farm in my old bomb shelter.

      For security reason I'm backing up the whole net using Torrents. :)

  • all this proves (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gearloos (816828) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:39PM (#31260696)
    All this proves is that the moronic politcal machine has no idea how to conduct real world I.T. tests
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Political Machine only cares about one thing .... getting re-elected. ALL other things play second fiddle to this primary fact. How else can you explain how stupid politicians keep getting re-elected? It isn't because they are doing a good job.

      What I don't understand is the 10% that think our congress is doing a good job. THESE are idiots that keep voting the other idiots into office.

      What makes most Sys Admins good is that they don't play politics, they tend to say exactly what they mean, and mean precisely

  • by pauljlucas (529435) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:40PM (#31260702) Homepage Journal
    Why are things like power plants, banks, or telcos directly connected to the internet? You'd think they could afford a completely separate network.
    • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:25PM (#31261384)

      Why are things like power plants, banks, or telcos directly connected to the internet? You'd think they could afford a completely separate network.

      A short summary of the problem:

      Obviously no one manipulates the reactor control rods over the internet, outsourced to India. Although there is probably an intense desire by the MBAs to do so. Obviously the marketing guys have their PR website on the internet.

      The problem is the devices in between. At a past employer, they had a customer whom had to cancel aircraft flights when their net access was down. They had to submit some form or list to the FAA or DHS or big brother or whatever for each flight, and they had a backup plan to submit the info over telephones/cellphones, but not the personnel to handle the load of all flights on backup, so the least essential flight would be canceled. Sales gave them an elaborate SLA.

      That is how you shut down a nuclear plant using the internet. They can't email incident reports to the N.R.C., so they have to shut down for "safeties sake". Its not that its technically dangerous, but intentionally operating without N.R.C. oversight might be a $10M/hour fine, so they aren't gonna do it. Or maybe the plant guards won't get paid unless their internet accessible timeclock application works, they won't work for free, and the plant is not allowed to work without guards. Or the VOIP customer service in India is inaccessible and for safety reasons you can't supply power with no way to learn of lines down in the street and/or dispatch the service techs, so off goes the power to the city. To save money, city water SCADA system is now on the internet instead of a private net, and when the inet goes down, no water, no water means the plant shuts off. Thats how you use the internet to shut off a nuclear power plant, not some B.S. about remotely adjusting the control rods and turning pumps on and off.

      What was almost certainly not discussed during the govt simulation was the need to remove useless regulations, because that gets the proletariat wondering if those regulations are really required under normal circumstances...

    • by LostCluster (625375) * on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:31PM (#31261462)

      In this simulations, they weren't. The public cell phone network had a widespread trojan, which went on to attack the public Internet. With phones and data down, they weren't able to respond to simple bomb attacks on a few power locations, and the power grid collapsed.

      The threat to the power grid wasn't that that it was cyber attacked, but that a conventional attack was much more powerful when there was no way to direct the repair people. With no way to direct truck drivers or send orders, there was no way to get gas to critical things like hospital and police to run generators.

      The team lost the wargame, and was punished by having to be interviewed by Wolf Blitzer.

      • In this simulations, they weren't [connected to the internet]. The public cell phone network had a widespread trojan, which went on to attack the public Internet.

        Huh? If "they" also includes the cell phone network, and the cell phone network isn't connected to the internet, then how could the cell phone network attack the public internet?

  • by vvaduva (859950) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:42PM (#31260732)

    The headline should really read: "Overseas hacker's computers unable to defeat incoming U.S. nukes."

    That would be much more accurate, if we are going to talk about WAR.

    • by malkavian (9512)

      Yeah, but which country? As, for example, a political group in one country uses machines in a second to launch an attack at a third. Retaliation of the weaponised type happens from the third country to the second, leaving countries 2 and 3 smoking ruins, but the first laughing.
      If you wait long enough to try and piece things together, you'll likely have bigger problems on your hands than retaliation (i.e. keeping afloat).

      • by thewils (463314)

        It was soooo funny watching supposedly intelligent people (Chertoff), when told the attack was coming from "a server in Mongolia (or wherever)" their first thought was "Can we take it out?"

        These people are so last Century. Someone needs to in there with a clue stick.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by nedlohs (1335013)

        We just nuke all the likely suspects. All at once.

        Problem solved.

    • By the time the wargame was over, they didn't know where to send the nukes. They knew the server was in Russia, and they could contact Russian police to get that shut down... but they didn't know who set this server up. They didn't know if this was Russian, or people pretending to be Russian, or Russians hoping they would think they were putting up a Russian diversion.

  • Bullshit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sexconker (1179573)

    If there was an actual cyber war, we would respond with real war.

    We're far and away the best at that.

    Random attacks showing the ineptitude of aren't a cyber war. When someone starts launching missles and redirecting our navy clear a path for an attack, then it'll be a cyber war.

    When some schlubs steal buckets of personal data, mess with the power grid, or disrupt internet traffic it's just another day in the U S of A.

  • Bunch of BS (Score:4, Informative)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:44PM (#31260774)
    That "excercise" was conducted by a bunch of former Bush officials and other neocons. It wasn't a test of our cyber security, it was a propaganda tool designed to embarass the Obama administration and urge a further erosion of our civil liberties.
    • I think you are looking at this all wrong. As others on this thread have pointed out, the real defense against any "cyber attack" (can we all stop using the cyber prefix already? The Internet has very little to do with cyborgs) will come from the private sector. This exercise, like many others conducted by biased parties within the government, is designed to drum up maximum fear and guarantee years of increased budgets and spending for those involved in the exercise. This is about money, plain and simple, a
    • Yep, this was set up by Fox N... wait a second, it was on CNN!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by baKanale (830108)

      I'm not even sure what the whole "wargame" consisted of to begin with. Correct me if I'm wrong, but from the sound of things, the entire event was just a bunch of guys sitting around at a table, with their staff telling them what's "happening". Everything they do (i.e. talking about it) is unable to change what they're being told.

      Seems to me like it doesn't need to have any basis in reality. It could have had any conclusion they want it to. For all it matters the scenario could have been an invasion by

  • For the same reason we can't win a space war, we have the most to lose. The more systems you have dependent on an asset, the more vulnerable you become in that asset.

    Note however, that doesn't mean you are in a weaker position, an asset is still an asset.

    Convenience isn't just convenient, it is time saved you can use to do other things. We just need to start waking up to what is a security risk and what isn't. What we need to protect and what we don't and finally drills on what to do if the primary syste

  • Cut the cord (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Nittle (1356899)
    If an attack was serious enough, we could just start disengaging connections to outside the US, then start dealing with the aspects that were attacking from inside the borders. This is probably mostly government propaganda to make the US look weaker than it really is.
  • by Tetsujin (103070) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:59PM (#31261012) Homepage Journal

    If you're captured by the enemy, there are just three pieces of information you are compelled to divulge: Age, Sex, and Location.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:00PM (#31261018) Homepage

    I wrote this to The Atlantic, which is a "think piece" magazine read by some decision makers in Washington.

    After seeing that show, I was struck by the cluelessness of the panelists. I don't expect them to understand how networks really work, but they didn't even understand the organizations involved. Key organizations in a crisis like that would be the North American Network Operators Group and the North American Electric Reliability Council, along with the US Computer Emergency Response Team. The participants didn't know that, and they didn't have staffers to tell them.

    The panelists were obsessing over whether they had enough authority to do something, while totally lacking any idea of what to do.

    There are a few reasonable steps they could have taken at their level.

    • First, after a physical attack on electric power facilities, get troops guarding key substations. The NERC would know where those are, and there should be a plan in place to do that.
    • Second, faced with an massive attack via "smart phones", ask network operators to temporarily disable 4G and 3G services while keeping voice up. That would cut traffic 90% and stop further infections. Cellular voice service would probably come back up.
    • Third, ask ISPs to temporarily block all HTML/MIME email, while allowing text email. That would stop most attacks against PCs and virus transmission. Yes, the FCC lacks the authority to order this. But if CERT and NANOG simply asked network operators to do that in an emergency, 99% would do it.
    • Fourth, activate the Emergency Broadcasting System, which uses AM radio, for a Presidential address. That will get through even if almost everything else is down.
    • Fifth, get FEMA cranked up to provide emergency services in areas with power outages. That's where people are going to die. Everything else is an economic problem.

    Having taken the initial steps, the next priority is bringing the electrical grid back up. If substations were damaged, it may be necessary to move some very large transformers around, and possibly to import them from other countries. Military assets (i.e. big transport aircraft) should be made available to help with that.

    In parallel with this, the intelligence community and DoD can work on who's behind the attack. But that's not going to be dealt with in the first hours. Don't obsess on hitting back.

    • by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:47PM (#31261738)

      The panelists were obsessing over whether they had enough authority to do something

      "obsessing over whether they had enough authority" was no mistake - it was the whole point of this test from the very beginning. We can already see that "lack of authority" and recommending new powers be granted to the president is the main focus being driven home in the aftermath of this exercise in propaganda. The real aim of course being to garner support for enacting laws giving enough authority to do "something" about this problem of people communicating over the internet. The people behind this test are not stupid or clueless, they merely know which fear buttons to press [wikipedia.org] in order to get what they want.

    • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:58PM (#31261922)

      Yes, the real responders will be CERT and NANOG. I'd be willing to bet that some fair percentage of the people with their hands on the keyboards in NANOG would be able to fire up their HAM sets if the backbones got so totally overwhelmed that nothing could get through. I KNOW they don't care if their fucking cell phones don't work. They have desks with three screens and a keyboard and a hardwired phone on them. What happens to their daughters' iPhones in no way interferes with their jobs.

      But I have a hard time imagining any purely digital situation that would take down the backbones. Script kiddies have been running DDOS botnets for a decade now. The backbones have seen it all, done it all, and when you get right down to it, the trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific links aren't big enough to saturate the continental backbone. We have a LOT more fiber in the ground than we do underwater.

      The only situation that could take down the backbone is an extended, multi-state power outage, and guess what: we've been there and done that. The northeast power outage was our worst case scenario made manifest. Those of us in the Midwest knew about it, but barely even noticed it in our day to day lives. Our grid stayed up, our phones still worked, and business went on as usual for most of us. Those who needed to talk to eastern seaboard customers/employers/whatever had a quiet few days, that's all.

      Sure, it looked like the participants were clueless. And I know the old saw about never attributing to malice what can be explained by incompetence. But I've seen the names of the participants, and I know for an absolute fact that malignance is one of their primary motivations. They seek power, at all costs, and they will do anything to get it, including lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate anything and everything they can affect. I think they do have the staffers who can tell them about NANOG and CERT and NERC and they don't like the fact that those organizations exist without their explicit control over everything they do.

      They want the authority, in law, to order NANOG around, on any pretext. They want the authority, in law, to disband CERT if they feel like it. They want to exert the full force of the US Government to make all these 'maverick' network operators stand and salute when they say so, or lose their jobs. They've heard how the Internet views censorship as damage and routes around it and they want control of the people who control the routers. They want the power and they want the money, and they're going to do their damndest to stampede their herd of useful idiots into giving it all to them. They are sociopaths and psychotics and we can only hope they die of old age before the country falls headlong into a French Revolution of purges, pogroms, and random bloodletting.

      • by Lousifer (979651) * on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:25PM (#31263146)

        They are sociopaths and psychotics and we can only hope they die of old age before the country falls headlong into a French Revolution of purges, pogroms, and random bloodletting.

        What makes you think their children will be any different? There has been a trend for the ruling class in the US to function equivalently to royalty (Bush I & II, Clintons, Kennedys). I don't see why the next generation of sociopaths will be any better than the current batch.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          The children are often different, and the grandchildren, if the money stays around that long, can be very different. The children of sociopathic royalty are often dilettantes and ne'er-do-wells, or uninterested in power for power's sake. I don't see Chelsea Clinton ever being effective in politics. Nearly all of the Kennedys active in politics were the same generation, with a few exceptions in the current generation, and their children are so numerous and so obscure that even the obsessives at Wikipedia

  • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:00PM (#31261020)

    The US has been and will be stuck back in WWII thinking until it's too late. When you invest in war ships, tanks and fighter planes you have something "show" people. It's pretty hard to demonstrate what you got for the money when it comes to the security of intangible things. The installation of a firewall just doesn't make one go "oooh and ahhh" like the vaporized city and mushroom cloud from a 10 mega-ton ICBM. Even a security fence and a camera or two around a municipal water supply isn't very "impressive" compared to the demonstration of raw power an F-22 can unleash.

    Worse still is when people do play "tickle-tickle" with our soft underbelly the response tends to be blowing up FedEx packages, taking off our shoes, having dogs sniff our crotch, and groping pregnant ladies.

  • by spookymonster (238226) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:05PM (#31261086)

    Frankly, I feel the US is more prepared than most countries. Unfortunately, that still doesn't quite cut it.

    I think the threat of indefensible counter-attack is going to make any government think twice about a full-on cyber-attack, taking the same role nuclear retaliation did during the Cold War.

    • by shentino (1139071)

      Except that nowadays the "nukes", also known as multithousand node botnets, are in the hands of "terrorists", also known as spammers and botnet operators.

      And terrorists are not exactly known for being rational.

      Anyone who pisses them off is going to face mega retaliation...

      A lession that Blue Security unfortunately had to learn the hard way.

  • This entire situation is designed to help coerce people and legislators into supporting further restrictions on internet freedom and more - it's entirely apparent.

    The other thing that should be apparent is that our intelligence services and military aren't stupid. They've been recruiting people with skills for years.

    We're not unprepared; where we stand against Russia and CHina I don't know, but to say we're not ready just doesn't ring true to me.

    I agree with Lessig and others about a "cyber 9/11" being on t

  • Change the system... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thestudio_bob (894258) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:41PM (#31261634)

    Unfortunately for the U.S., the problem started decades ago. The downfall began when the corporations convinced politicians to make stronger and stronger laws to punish those who hack their system or product. This led to the idea that instead of fixing any security issues, it was easier and cheaper to try to punish those who hacked. Fast forward to today, and now theres the more laws, EUA's, DMCA's, etc.

    If you discover exploits and try to go public with it. The first thing the targeted company might try to do to squash the "exploit" is either litigate or file criminal charges.

    I'm not saying that there shouldn't be laws against hacking into systems, but the current environment doesn't bode well for making these system any more secure. It would be nice if there was some kind of "whistle blower" protection for those who discover exploits and maybe a company or government agency that you could disclose these exploits to in order to receive this protection.

    Maybe there could be laws inacted that require a company to fix the exploit within a certain amount of time once it has been reported or something. If not they could either be fined or held accountable if any sensitive data is breached. Not sure, but something needs to be changed.

  • While watching parts of this it became obvious that this was a scripted show and had no basis in reality. They had certain talking points that they wanted to get out and test on the American public, this was the show in which they set it up to do it. It was unbelievably stupid and showed incompetence of a highest order.
    Obama should address this scenario and flat out bitch slap them for using this FUD to float trial balloons to further erode our constitution.
  • Slashdot as usual is a little bit behind the times... this "Cyber-Shockwave" wargame was recorded by CNN with Wolf Blitzer hosting, and broadcast repeatedly on CNN last weekend. Would been nice if we could tell some of the trolls here to go watch TV and come back when they were better informed.
  • by gmuslera (3436) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:47PM (#31261746) Homepage Journal
    ... is social engineering. No firewall can isolate you from human stupidity, and more accessible information about everything (that either is public, or can be obtained thru directed trojans/botnets) gives good base for such kind of approach.
  • An honest loss? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:14PM (#31262968) Journal

    The military has conducted dishonest wargames [armytimes.com] before, gaming the rules to prevent the Red team from achieving a politically distasteful victory. Perhaps the parties involved can learn from their loss instead of pretending it didn't happen. Of course, if the Red Team was supposed to win, in order to bolster budget requests and score political points, we're back to meaningless pantomimes.

  • by TheSync (5291) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:37PM (#31263340) Journal

    If the US lost a "cyber war" enough to seriously damage our economic infrastructure, the world would lose.

    Who imports all that stuff from China? A stalled US economy will lead to a lot of upset Chinese unemployed. Who still has the largest amount of global financial services? Care to try to cash in those stocks/bonds or "safe" US Treasury Securities when the US information infrastructure is down?

    If the US real-estate bubble was enough to cause a global recession, what would happen if the entire information infrastructure of the US were taken out?

    Any nation-state that thinks taking out the US will help them is stupid. Terrorism (the kind that can accept a global depression) is another story.

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