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U.S. Fails Test In Simulated Cyberattack

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U.S. Fails Test In Simulated Cyberattack

Organizers, observers of “Cyber Shockwave” conclude that nation is not ready for the real thing

Feb 17, 2010 | 06:48 PM

By TimWilson

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 — which organized “Cyber Shockwave” using a group of former government officials and computer simulations — concluded that the U.S is “unprepared for cyber threats.”

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, who chaired the simulated National Security Council, said cyber-terrorism “ought to be treated as a threat of sufficient seriousness that we give it the priority attention we’ve given weapons of mass destruction.” Cyber-terrorism is “more complicated by the fact that it involves every individual,” Chertoff said. “Anybody who has a smart phone, 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 over a single day in July 2011. When the Cabinet convenes to face this crisis, 20 million of the nation’s smart phones 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,” said 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, said of a potential cyber attack on the U.S.: “There is no question in my mind that this is a predictable surprise and we need to get our act together.””

The panel of government officials agreed that cyber-terrorism is a national security issue that needs to be addressed quickly 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,” said Chertoff.

During the exercise, legal questions were raised 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,” said Jamie Gorelick, who played the role of Attorney General.

Cyber ShockWave demonstrated the tremendous challenges the government has in dealing with potential cyber attacks,” said 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.”

So, I have been lamenting this outcome for years now and the one thing that really is running through my mind right now is

“Umm where was Tsar Schmidt?”

Was he involved? Was he watching? Has he a clue? So far I have heard dick out of him in the way of saying anything of meaning about his job. Perhaps he is not sure what is job is as yet anyway… Meh. In any case, this should be an interesting report to read.

Now on the “predictable surprise” comment.. Uhh What? What the hell does that mean? How is anything predictable a surprise? Is this the calibre of the people working on this problem? Ugh.

Lastly, the whole issue of the legal right to privacy seeming to be at risk to “solve” these issues really is a load of crap. FIND ways to take care of the problems without having to invade all our privacy please!

Time to start my plans for a big Faraday cage…