Is Cyberwar The Next Cold War?

If 'war' connotes huge conflict on a grand scale between nations, and 'détente' is a harbinger of intermittent periods of calm and high tension - could Cyberwar be the 21st Century's version of the Cold War?  George Orwell who was the first to coin the phrase "Cold War" sourced the ideological confrontation between the US and Russia. Today, Cyberwar is of equal threat, but the enemies aren't just confined to nations.

In a post titled, "Google Is No Secretary Of State When It Comes To Diplomacy In China," I noted the company's disclosure earlier this year that it was attacked by Chinese-based hackers and as a result was threatening to scale back its operations in China. While I felt that Google's handling of the situation lacked diplomacy, my critique was not discounting the fear that a lot of us have when confronted with cyber-adversaries that are trying to penetrate commercial and governmental networks in the U.S.

Jaikumar Vijayan in a ComputerWorld post reported that if "a full-fledged Cyberwar were to break out, the nation's economy would be hit hard. Banks might not be able function, electricity, water and other utilities could be shut off, air travel would almost certainly be disrupted, and communications would be spotty at best -- in a word, chaos."

In addition to data-mined classified Intel of governments, cyberthieves have also bilked billions from US companies and banks, and there are growing concerns that cyberattackers are making subtle changes to software source code that opens up access into a company's operations.

Admiral Dennis BlairAdmiral Dennis BlairOn April 6, Admiral Dennis Blair, director of National Intelligence adamantly stated that the intelligence reform since 9/11 has been 'inadequate' to handle current intelligence threats and that the intelligence community's ability to innovate and cross traditional boundaries… fell way short of our enemies' "ingenuity and nimbleness."

In Richard A. Clarke's new book "Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It," he talks about the new weaponry of war. Wars used to be waged with steel, then firearms, and eventually nuclear weapons. Today’s stealth new weapons include hackers, bots, “denial of service” attacks and censorship policies.

According to Martin Jacques, author of "When China Rules the World..." Google will be obliged to either accept Chinese's censorship policies or exit the world's largest Internet market, with serious consequences for its long-term global ambitions. This, according to Jacques, "is a metaphor for our times: America's most dynamic company cannot take on the Chinese government - even on a issue like free and open information - and win."  He concludes by not painting a rosy picture of the US's position as a global super power: "Google's fate is a sign of the world to come, and the sooner we come to appreciate the nature of a world run by China, the better we will be able to deal with it."

Clarke warns us of the havoc a cyberattack would wreak on our national security, and explains what CyberRichard A. ClarkeRichard A. Clarkewar is, how cyber-weapons work, and how vulnerable we are as a nation and as individuals to a web of cyber-criminals. In this YouTube video he details the Chinese attacks on Google and other companies Web sites, as well as correlating the Cyberwars today to the Cold War of yesteryear.

Cyberattacks are still considered by many as something that happens in some illusive virtual world and unlike a physical bomb, there's no tangible collateral carnage to deal with afterwards. People like Clarke, Blair and others think otherwise. And, It's up to the affected citizenry of the world to assess the potential harm and express our concerns to the powers-to-be to weigh the threats to our security.

Are Cyberwars, the 21st Century's version of the Cold War? Are Cyberwars a clear and present danger?  Please take our POLLS and let us know how you feel on these issues? Your comments are always welcome.


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