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What is the Reality of Cyber Threats to National Infrastructure?

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Tagged As: Government, Hacking, Politics, and Security

Is it all hype and hysteria or is there real merit behind the warnings of a cyber apocalypse to the United States?

President Obama is proposing huge increases in cyber research and defense spending, with nearly $500 million of the pot allocated for commercial industry investment to develop tools and capabilities. This is notable in that the government wants private industry to share in its own defenses as the American infrastructure is predominately a mesh of privately owned, commercial networks. The overall Pentagon request reaches upwards of $2.3 billion for computer related R&D. The impetus behind such spending are advisories from the CIA and NSA directors. Leon Panetta warns the United States is looking a digital Pearl Harbor in the eye while Keith Alexander testified on education requirements in math and science to breed the next generation of computer warriors.[1]

On the other hand, the government's cyber czar cautions that "Cyber war is a terrible metaphor ... Don't make it something it's not." Speaking to an audience at a California RSA conference, Howard Schmidt and like minded security experts agreed the hype on foreign cyber capabilities and intent were wildly overblown and distracting from the real matters at hand. Security issues at the forefront include things seen everyday that affect everyone from home users to stock markets - infections by malware and trojans leading to botnet herds - fortunately showing a recent downward trend. And recently, the hackers making headlines are those s\distributed participants from Anonymous that are attacking anyone and everyone in opposition to Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks. While nation states may have tools up their sleeves for later, cyber professionals have to deal with criminals and vigilantes today.

[1] It should be noted, the ABCNews story cites China's 15% traffic hijacking of the Internet amongst the evidence, a fact definitively refuted by the sites contributor, Todd Arnold in Did China Hijack 15% of the Internet: Routers, BGP and Ignorance.

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