The Sony attack is a wakeup call

The myriad of security threats are constant reminders of our extreme vulnerability to cyber criminals and much broader cyber attacks.

Fallout from the Sony security debacle continues. This, combined with the myriad other security threats I’ve been discussing in blogs this year, are constant reminders of our extreme vulnerability to cyber criminals and much broader cyber attacks. Threats to us individually, of course, are most likely to come from gangs of hackers as well as individual tech-savvy sociopaths hunkered down in obscure locations.

One simple statistic underscores the problem at a macro level: over 90% of organizations have no protection against the kind of targeted attacks experienced by Sony. Those few organizations that are better protected are ‘target rich’ major defense-related public/private institutions and infrastructure hubs. Nonetheless, their security perimeters are constantly under assault with limited breaches common.

Make no mistake about it, we live in a world characterized by incessant, under-the-radar cyber incursions, with very few specific incidents ever reported. One exception: we’ve been hearing reports for years about the theft of U.S. technology by Chinese and other cyber spies, most notably, that the new Chinese J-20 fighter is modeled off stolen F-22 and F-35 plans.

More concerning are reports that Chinese development of their yet-to-be-deployed, more innovative stealth J-31, which will be directly in competition with our F-35, just deployed in the war against ISIS/ISIL. According to several experts, it will not only have better fuel efficiency, greater speed and maneuverability than the F-35 but will be able to bring our plane down in a dog fight.

So far, a kind of ‘balance of terror’ has prevented more rational players like the U.S. and China from taking things too far. –In the face of all this, it’s an interesting turn of events that the U.S. has asked for China’s help in curbing North Korea’s capacity for the kind of attack it apparently inflicted on Sony.

A Nightmare scenario

Infinitely more troubling than all this bad news is the nightmare scenarios of a Pearl Harbor type attack from a well-funded terrorist group–or a rogue state like North Korea–that disables the U.S. and other power grids for weeks or months. At the heart of this security challenge is our collective unwillingness to do what is necessary–for example, to make the necessary infrastructure improvements to forestall that kind of eventuality.
I’ll cover more on this and related issues in my next installment.