The recent breaches involving both Sony and Epsilon prove that cyber threats are on the rise. According to Charles Dodd, a U.S. government consultant on cyber defense, the death of Osama bin Laden sparked many cyber attacks ranging from spam-related incidents to politically motivated, foreign nation threats as well.
How serious of a threat is cyber warfare to you? Feel free to share your opinion.
Dodd told us that these threats should be taken very seriously because these groups are "absolutely ruthless in their attacks." They are "well-versed in how to get past our good senses" and are now reaching out on social networks to gather information and recruit people to join their cause. Social networks have proven to be a golden ticket for terrorist camps since they can get personal with users.
To put some perspective on just how serious cyber attacks are getting, Dodd said that terrorists are currently able to recruit 100s and 1000s of people in just a couple of months as a result of social media. Given that same period of time a few years ago, they were only able to draft around 10 people.
For this reason, Dodd said, "Cyber will be the next generation warfare."
"It imposes a huge threat not only from the aspect of how fast they can recruit people and get the right talent, but also how hard it is for the U.S. because of privacy laws to actually look at those networks and see who's being recruited."
Because privacy is such a debated topic in America, it brings another challenging element to addressing these cyber attacks. On one hand, U.S. citizens put tremendous value on their privacy, which is understandable. However, when it comes to terror, should privacy take a backseat?
"While we have to have privacy, I do believe that there should be provisions in there that, when known actors are going and grooming the next generation terrorist, I believe, without a doubt, that there should be some policy put in place that says they can go in and monitor and... take these guys out," said Dodd.
He went on to say that Anwar Al-Awlaki would not have gotten away, if some type of provision had been in place. Although caught, Jihad Jane, also known as Colleen LaRose, is another example of an individual that relied on the Internet and social media to further her terrorist conspiracy.
Historically, the U.S. has fought wars based on the notion that land, air, and sea separated it from its adversaries. Furthermore, if it could control these areas, it had a competitive edge. Unfortunately, cyber does not fit into any of these regions. With the Web and technology continuing to develop, intelligence agencies are still struggling with how to classify cyber warfare.
As a result, Dodd told us that it would take a Congressional order to really get this issue addressed with the seriousness that it deserves. He also said that steps toward such an order are still in the Flinstones' stages.
In the mean time, he recommends that consumers get educated on cyber warfare. In addition, he suggests that they call on their senators and representatives and encourage them to take action toward protecting against these cyber threats.
What do you think the U.S. should do to combat cyber warfare?