The news Thursday from the Associated Press that "hackers accessed the credit card information of North American customers, in an online security breach affecting about 200,000 accounts," comes on the heels of hacks into Lockheed Martin, RSA and the U.S. State Department.
These cyberattacks pose severe and worrisome questions about our government’s security and our online defenses.
Lockheed Martin, a major U.S. government defense contractor and RSA, the security division of EMC (a data storage company used by most major banks and financial institutions as a way of safe keeping passwords, documents and other vital information) became subject to sophisticated cyber-attacks earlier this year. According to both companies damage was minimal as they were able to detect it quickly.
In 2010 alone, the U.S. government was subject to over 300,000 cyber-attacks on its infrastructure. According to various government officials, there have been over 100 attempts from foreign governments to infiltrate our military and defense plans. 2011 has already proven to be a record year for security cyber breeches, and the momentum is not showing any signs of a slow down.
The United States government is planning to spend upwards of $13 billion dollars over the next five years securing our government’s most sensitive and closely held data from cyber hackers.
It has stepped up its efforts to combat this increasing threat by developing, albeit slowly, a program called Einstein 2 & Einstein 3 which is designed to protect our government’s computer systems.
The government has also been working with the private sector and other governments in developing better defenses against increasing attacks. Additionally, companies are now using "Intrusion Software" to uncover irregular behavior on their networks.
But is this enough?
Today, anyone with a computer and Internet connection can attack us with a mere click of a button. These attacks are becoming more sophisticated and difficult to decipher. Attacks coming from China, Russia and the Far East are now becoming daily headlines. According to experts, cyber espionage will morph into increasingly sophisticated algorithms and offensive tactics despite our efforts to control it.
Most Americans are now dependent on the digital world and feel extremely vulnerable when minor disruptions occur.
Certainly, the majority of our governmental infrastructure has gone digital.
What happens when cables are hacked, information leaked and classified documents are circulated to thousands in the digital underground?
What if our banking system, ATM and checking accounts start flashing numbers that are not accurate, leading to a digital banking collapse?
What happens when our power plants, electric grids, railroads and nuclear facilities become subject to multiple attacks from around the globe?
The American people need to wake up to the reality that a new war is being waged -- one with less military casualties but with potentially more devastating effects on our civilian way of life.
The power of the Lulzsec, Stuxnet and Zeus viruses may be a small peek into the opening salvo in this new war. They are as effective in wreaking havoc and mass fear as have Usama bin Laden and Ayman Al- Zawahiri.
Worms, viruses, and modern day hacking techniques are the new weapons of mass destruction. The M16 of tomorrow is without doubt, digital warfare. Future wars will be waged with digital tanks, stolen identities and Avatars. Our enemies don't need Kalashnikov's or Molotov cocktails anymore.
Are we really prepared?
Ari Zoldan is CEO of Quantum Networks, LLC a service and product provider for the wireless industry specializing in 3G and 4G technologies including WiMax and Long Term Evolution.