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The next cyber war will be for your wallet

Robert X. Cringely | March 8, 2010
Some security officials say the US is under cyber attack; others say that's a crock. Cringe's take? Follow the money

Is the United States in the middle of a cyber war? You'd think the answer to that question would be obvious. But apparently it depends on whom you ask.

Case in point: At this week's RSA security conference, Scott Borg, director and chief economist from the U.S. Cyber Consequence Unit think tank, declared that we are already deep into a cyber war.

This followed on the heels of a report by yet another DC think tank, the Bipartisan Policy Center, which held a tabletop "cyber war" exercise and concluded that if such a war were held today, the United States would have its virtual assets handed to it.

Testifying before Congress last week, former National Intelligence director Mike McConnell said if we were at cyber war, we'd lose -- badly. He did everything but force members of Congress to duck and cover under their desks to hide from the Internet boogeymen:

If the nation went to war today, in a cyber war, we would lose. ...We're the most vulnerable. We're the most connected. We have the most to lose.

He then elaborated on this in a 1,381-word op-ed in the Washington Post a few days later:

We need to develop an early-warning system to monitor cyberspace, identify intrusions and locate the source of attacks with a trail of evidence that can support diplomatic, military and legal options -- and we must be able to do this in milliseconds. More specifically, we need to reengineer the Internet to make attribution, geolocation, intelligence analysis and impact assessment -- who did it, from where, why and what was the result -- more manageable.

In case you missed his point, McConnell is talking about an Internet where every bit can be traced to its source, down to the chair where you're now sitting. (You naughty little monkey. Don't think the NSA doesn't know what you've been up to.)

This week, newly appointed cyber security czar Howard Schmidt said, basically, "Take a hike, Mike." As quoted by Wired News' Ryan Singel:

There is no cyberwar... I think that is a terrible metaphor and I think that is a terrible concept. There are no winners in that environment.

In a blistering (and apparently Red Bull-fueled) editorial, Singel essentially calls McConnell a shameless shill who's trying to ratchet up the fear level for the benefit of his current employer.

McConnell isn't collecting a government salary any more. He's now EVP at Booz Allen Hamilton, which already collects more than $2.7 billion in government contracts, according to the company's own Website. Booz Hamilton is now part of the shadowy Carlyle Group, beloved by conspiracy theorists as a twisted amalgam of the Illuminati, the TriLateral Commission, and the Visitors from that alien invasion show, "V."


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