June 19, 2011

Crashing The Internet--Are We Prepared?

Almost week after week, I read and hear about the dangers of cyber attacks and whether "the big one" is coming.

The big one is what some experts have called a pending "digital Pearl Harbor."

Just last week, the Federal Times (13 June 2011) wrote that the "U.S. government computer networks are attacked about 1.8 billion times per month."

The Center for New American Security (CNAS) states that deterring and preventing cyber attacks will require "stronger and more proactive leadership."

Charles Dodd, a cyber security consultant in D.C. warns that "You've bought a stick to a gunfight, and you're arrogant about your capabilities."
So the question is--are we really paying attention to and being realistic about the probability and magnitude of the impact of the cyber threat out there?

Certainly, with so much critical infrastructure--from government, military, and private industry--dependent on the Internet, the effects of a concerted or prolonged cyber attack on our country would be devastating as documented most recently in The Lipman Report (October 2010) on "Threats to the Information Highway: Cyber Warfare, Cyber Terrorism, and Cyber Crime" as follows:

--"There is a great concern regarding the types of destructive attacks that are already occurring, but an even greater concern for the unknown that is yet to happen but is almost certainly even now in development. Cyberspace touches nearly every part of our daily lives."

It is in this regard that I read with serious concern today in ID Magazine (August 2011) that the University of Minnesota has "demonstrated in a simulation how an attack with a large botnet (a network of remotely-controlled PCs) could shut down the Internet."

And it took only 20 minutes to trigger the chain reaction in which "manipulated routers overloaded all other Internet routers worldwide...mak[ing] it impossible for Internet address to be found."
Granted it would take around 250,000 computers to carry out such an attack, but with the billions of people online with computer devices of all sorts...that does not seem like an inordinate amount to press forward with for a coordinated attack.

So the Internet in theory can be crashed!

Just think for a moment about how that would impact you and what you do every day...would anything be the same? Could we even function normally anymore?

As we move more and more of our applications, data, and infrastructure online to the cloud, we need to consider what additional risks does this bring to the individual, the organization, and the nation and how we can respond and recover should something happen to the Internet.

In the Federal government there are many agencies, commands, task forces, and groups working to secure the Internet, and at the same time, there are separate efforts to modernize and reform IT and reduce unnecessary expenditures, so what we need to do is better integrate the drive to the cloud with the urgency of securing our data, so that these efforts are strong and unified.
This is one of the things that I was trying to achieve when I created the CIO Support Services Framework in synthesizing the functions of IT Security with the other strategic CIO functions for Enterprise Architecture, IT Investment Management, Project Management, Customer Relationship Management, and Performance Management.

If the Internet can indeed be crashed, we had all better be prepared and make the right IT investment decisions now, so that we won't be sorry later.
(All opinions are my own)

(Source Photo: Heritage and History.com)


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