US Government, Stuxnet, and Cyber-Attacks: Caveat Coder
New reports tying the Stuxnet worm to the US government has many people asking questions. What exactly is a cyberattack? Does conducting a cyberattack have the same implications as a physical military attack? Is the US waging an undeclared war on Iran in the same way that a bombing of its nuclear facilities would have done? Is this the new face of warfare and defense?
And now there’s the recent discovery of the Flame virus. We seem to be entering an era where military and diplomatic goals are increasingly embracing the Internet and cyber tools as a vehicle with which to achieve.
One of the big challenges in understanding all this is the lack of agreed upon definitions and principles. We may refer to this attack as cyber-sabotage, while Iran may refer to it as cyber-war or even cyber-terrorism. The Flame virus would be best categorized as cyber-espionage. Without terminology that is clear and agreed upon, the classification of this action is left to be determined by the rhetoric of politicians driven by their own political goals.
There are far more disconcerting implications and considerations if the US is to conduct state-sponsored initiatives in cyberspace.
Paradoxically, the proponents of building up US cybersecurity defenses will suffer a setback with the US now admitting its role in Stuxnet. These proponents – many of whom are in the military or defense contractor business – had taken up Stuxnet as their cause celebre and chief argument for extending the reach of DHS, NSA, and other federal authorities into our businesses and personal lives. But the government and the cybersecurity industry can’t go clamoring for more funding to defend against a boogeyman of their own creation.
Far from sci-fi depictions, artificial intelligence – through machine learning algorithms and big data – is key to defusing today's evolving cyberthreats.
Defeating today’s – and tomorrow's – cybercriminals requires man and machine to collaborate, intelligently. This is the heart of next-gen cybersecurity.