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[ISN] Cyber Attacks Can Spark Real Wars
By RICHARD A. CLARKE
The Wall Street Journal
FEBRUARY 16, 2012
For most of this year, Arab-Israeli tensions have been spilling off the
streets and airwaves and onto the region's fiber optic cables. Citizen
hackers on both sides have engaged in tit-for-tat raids on Israeli,
Saudi and other regional computer networks. Stock exchanges, airlines,
government offices and even hospitals have had their websites defaced or
shut down. Credit-card numbers and personal emails have been stolen and
posted on the Internet. One Israeli official has labeled the escalating
cyber hostility "terrorism" and called for it to be dealt with as such.
It has not been terrorism. No one has died and, so far, nothing has
blown up as a result. Indeed, most of the activity has involved the use
of relatively commonplace hacker tools and techniques. This ongoing
cyber "hacktivism" has, however, demonstrated three things that should
cause nations to act.
First, the ease with which the hacktivists have been able to steal data
and to shut down Web pages suggests that companies (and perhaps
governments) in the region have not yet taken cyber security seriously.
Governments in other regions (Asia, Europe, North America) have been
educating, assisting and regulating companies to improve their cyber
security. There has been a notable lack of such government activity in
the Middle East, and that inactivity has opened the way for citizen
hackers to cause the mischief we see today.
If the hackers turn their attention to disruption and destruction, as
some have threatened, they are likely to find the controls for electric
power grids, oil pipelines and precious water systems inadequately
secured. If a hacker causes real physical damage to critical systems in
that region, it could quickly involve governments retaliating against
each other with both cyber and conventional weapons. Middle Eastern
governments need to get their citizen hackers under control and better
protect their own critical networks, or they will eventually be dragged
into unwanted conflict.
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