Saturday, April 12, 2014

Multinational response to banking cyberattack

Some interesting followup from the Washington Post today on the systematic denial of service attacks on the US banking system earlier during this decade. Back then, the culprit was quickly pegged as Iran, not long after one of that country's intelligence service succeeded in destroying tens of thousands of computers at Saudi oil company Aaramco.

According to the article, the State Department is taking credit for putting together a multinational alliance of national computer response teams that helped slow the pace of the attacks. Some unnamed defense officials, however, are insisting that it was Iran's switch to a less confrontational posture on the international stage that was behind the reduction in incidences and intensity.

Cyberattacks between states remain my biggest worry as a possible trigger of larges-scale warfare between the great powers of our day. Even with the escalating tensions in the Pacific. Or at least for the time being.

I realize that with the hundredth anniversary of Great War (World War I) drawing near, it's getting to be something of a fashion to make comparisons to that time period. Popularity not withstanding, there are a few disturbing parallels that hold up. Most worrisome, the potential of a minor act of violence during a period of tensions to snowball and draw in countries who might have otherwise been able to negotiate their way out.

Where a century ago it was a network of shadow alliances, secret plans, and rapid mobilization schemes by European nations who found that technology had shrunk their continent, today it's the interconnected nature of the entire world that could quickly draw us all in. We live in an age in which infrastructure and major financial targets almost anywhere on the planet can be attacked with no warning and possibly great consequence. Especially since there are so many unknowns about the effects of this new form of warfare. That, and with the time required to accurately attribute and incident, a damaging series of attacks could result in hasty and misplaced retaliation.

The question is, what sort of underlying assumptions are coloring the major players' views of the risks and rewards of cyberwafre involving civilian targets? Are they similar to blithe early 1900s notions on armed conflict, which would put us at risk of stumbling over this century and new economy's Franz Ferdinands? Or are they more Cold War in nature, with a shared international realization that even an limited attempt at using of these weapon systems could fast devolve into an nightmarish spiral of destruction?

No comments: