What are the main dangers for national infrastructures? There are too many threats to which any country is exposed. The situation is bleak, suddenly even the sectors of defense found themselves vulnerable to cyber threats. Once nations used arms and military power, intimidating opponents in this way.
Today the way of fighting is radically changed, the battleground is cyberspace, the armies are composed by groups of hackers and cyber weapons are sophisticated weapons designed to attack strategic targets … and mainly the wars today are silent.
This last aspect is not negligible, when a country like China has started the warfare first of many other nations, the objectives of raids and of cyber operations of industrial espionage are often realized even when the main damages have already been caused. In some cases we speak of a competitive advantage of more than a decade, but we also think the case study of Nortel and the damage caused by a decade of spying.
The political landscape has radically changed, and today countries like U.S., Japan and Russia are subject to the offensive of smaller nations once relegated to marginal roles on the international stage. In mid July 2010, security experts discovered the virus called Stuxnet that had infiltrated computers inside nuclear plants and other infrastructures in Iran. It was considered “the first” cyber weapon of the history.
These developments have completely changed the way to conduct intelligence operations which now moves through a meticulous analysis of the battlefield, The Internet, studying the operations in the cyber space of opposing forces, nations and companies on which to spy.
Many aspects are so profoundly changed, that alliances that were once unimaginable have become reality today. They are able to frighten technologically advanced nations such as Israel and U.S. in some cases at least. For example let me cite the China-Iran axis, or the support provided by China itself to nations like North Korea in offending military targets such as South Korea or Japan.
All this turmoil has the main effect of causing significant capital to flow into critical areas such as cyber defense to compensate for the perceived cyber gap. An uncomfortable situation that governments tend to conceal and hide from its citizens; I live in Italy and if I go on the streets to ask ordinary people the cost of spending on warfare they will take me for a fool.
The awareness level on the topic is practically zero. The question remains how much effective are these measures and what is the level of security we are able to provide? We are in an embryonic stage in which it is too early hazard a hypothesis about the real state in term of security of the critical infrastructures all over the world. Who is it exactly that threatens our tranquility?
The main threats come from:
- Hostile foreign states and cyber terrorism
- Cyber crime
- Groups of hacktivists — possibly in alliance with or manipulated by the above
The threat of cyber crime and those made by the actions of protest of groups of hacktivists are sources of considerable concern in some circles. So far this year we have witnessed an escalation of the phenomenon of hacktivism, the Anonymous group has upped the ante, and between doubts and misgivings about the real genesis of its operations, numerous attacks have been registered against government sites and security agencies.
Gen. Keith Alexander, current director of the National Security Agency warned regarding the possibility that groups of hacktivist will have the ability in short term to bring cyber attack to the national power supplies causing a limited power outage in the U.S. Power supplies are just one possible target, don’t forget the critical of telecommunications systems, gas and oil storage and transportation, banking and finance, transportation, water supply systems and emergency services. The profile of cyber assaults against the U.S. government and corporate targets is increasingly manifesting high skill in the strategy of the attacks.
If forces like those of hacktivist have the technical capacities and critical mass such that they can influencie foreign policy, are we sure that among their goals there are critical infrastructures?
Why would the group that draws its strength from the masses attack them, put them in danger?
Does Anonymous want this?
In an official message to the Wall Street Journal Anonymous regarding the accusation has written
“Ridiculous! Why should Anonymous shut off power grid? Makes no sense! They just want to make you feel afraid.”
“Why would Anons shut off a power grid?” reads a tweet from the @YourAnonNews feed. “There are ppl on life support / other vital services that rely on it. Try again NSA. #FearMongering”
The researcher of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Jerry Brito, told that Anonymous has never made a threat to the electrical grid or to other critical infrastructure.
But then, why do these rumors begin to circulate in authoritative newspapers? More than the group itself I’m scared of the potential for future misuse of the name Anonymous, someone using the causes of the hacktivists to create a climate of emergency, declare openly to the world that we are all terribly vulnerable. And various organizations could do this.
Do you recognize Anonymous in one of these definitions?
The reality sounds almost too dramatic; many countries like America and european members states are still vulnerable to cyber attacks. Critical infrastructures are vulnerable. The real problem will be future actions of cyber-terrorism, the business of terror is aware of the situation of the infrastructures and it is ready to hit them.
But consider how a terrorist act is executed, for example by involving young guys who masquerade as the real source of the attacks. The cyber recruiting is really simple, it is enough to announce an operation of Anonymous in a specific channel (e.g. chat, social networks) and attract (mostly) young people living the myth of the hacker, unaware of the real targets of a mission. The availability of tools for offensive hacking on the Internet makes it easy.
Maybe someone is convinced that by scaring the public it is possible to remove the masses from the ideology behind protests or to create social chaos. Or someone could use a false threat to justify large expenditures which are never disclosed.
Why do we intend to define the components of Anonymous cyber-terrorists and cyber criminals?
Mr. Richard Stiennon, Chief Research Analyst at IT-HARVEST, draws some distinctions in the definitions as well. A cybercriminal is generally motivated purely by profit. That is a different goal than cyber espionage, which seeks to access intellectual property for military or industrial strategic advantage, or cyberwar, which focuses on actually sabotaging infrastructure, disrupting critical systems, or inflicting physical damage on an enemy.