Last week Republican senator John McCain called for the government to establish a special panel to come up with legislation to address supposed cybersecurity threats facing the United States.
“The only way to move comprehensive cyber security legislation forward swiftly is to have committee chairmen and ranking members step away from preserving their own committees’ jurisdiction … (and) develop a bill that serves the national security needs of all Americans,” McCain said.
As if on cue, the Pentagon announced two previously unpublicized attacks following McCain’s call for a bipartisan action.
On Thursday, out-going deputy secretary of defense Bill Lynn said a foreign intelligence service had stolen 24,000 files on a sensitive weapons system from a defense contractor’s network.
Lynn said the Defense Industrial Base Cyber Pilot was established to work with the private sector in the battle against cyber foes.
“Our success in cyberspace depends on a robust public-private partnership,” said Lynn. “The defense of the military will matter little unless our civilian critical infrastructure is also able to withstand attacks.”
Lynn cranked up the paranoia in February when he speculated that al-Qaeda might get its hands on the Stuxnet virus. He said “it is possible for a terrorist group to develop cyberattack tools on their own or to buy them on the black market.”
The highly sophisticated malware virus was engineered by the United States and with Israeli Mossad assistance placed on an Iranian industrial computer network in order to undermine the country’s nuclear energy program.
In 2009, Obama made a major speech on the threat posed by hackers and other evil doers.
In May, the Pentagon announced it would respond to cyber mischief and thievery with military action. “If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said a military official.
According to government bureaucrats, the Pentagon is “perfectly situated” to respond – presumably with missiles down smokestacks – and can “match its extensive human network with its extensive technological network,” according to Martha Stansell-Gamm, the former chief of the computer crime and intellectual property section at the Justice Department.
During his Senate confirmation last month as Obama’s new Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta said that the “next Pearl Harbor we confront could very well be a cyber-attack that cripples our power systems, our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems.”
As we noted last August, critical infrastructure in the United States is not connected to the public internet.
Dire reports issued by the government “are usually richer in vivid metaphor — with fears of ‘digital Pearl Harbors’ and ‘cyber-Katrinas’ — than in factual foundation,” writes Evgeny Morozov, a Belarus-born researcher and blogger who writes on the political effects of the internet.
“Our legislature is utterly supine before the national security bureaucracy, which exaggerates cybersecurity threats and consistently uses the secrecy trump card to defy oversight,” writes Jim Harper for CATO. “Benign intentions do not control future results, and governmental surveillance of the Internet for ‘cybersecurity’ purposes may warp over time to surveillance for ideological and political purposes.”
The largely mischievous attacks by shadowy hacktivist groups on the CIA, Sony, Lockheed Martin, Sega, and other corporations and government agencies are being cynically exploited to push for new restrictions and other draconian measures by the government and the military, including abandoning the old internet for a new one.
Former CIA director Michael Hayden recently said the government should build a new internet that would require certified credentials for entry and would do away with users’ Fourth Amendment rights to privacy.
Merging Homeland Security and the private sector.
In June, a former Marine in military intelligence was linked to LulzSec, one of the mysterious hacker groups allegedly responsible for attacking both the CIA and the Senate. In addition, the LulzSec group attacked Sony BMG, Nintendo.com, Sonypictures.com, PBS.org, Fox.com, US X Factor contestant database, Sonymusic.co.jp, InfraGard, and other corporations.
Considering the track record of the government and the Pentagon, it is entirely possible LulzSec and other so-called hacktivist groups are intelligence fronts designed to crank up the hysteria and push for a government-controlled and centralized internet.
The Pentagon assertion that it now has a blank check to attack foreign adversaries accused of cyber attacks is particularly frightening. Government officials routinely blame nuclear super powers China and Russia for the attacks and the Pentagon’s new posture reveals it is ready to attack any country that allegedly violates its networks and those of its corporate partners.