Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Cyberwarfare greater threat to US than terrorism, say security experts ......The FBI Admits Its Primary Focus Is "Not" Law Enforcement ....... Keep an eye on the Sun - CME can trump all of the NSA and FBI surveillance in a heartbeat !
Cyberwarfare greater threat to US than terrorism, say security experts
Cyberwarfare is the greatest threat facing the United States – outstripping even terrorism – according to defense, military, and national security leaders in a Defense News poll, a sign that hawkish warnings about an imminent “cyber Pearl Harbor” have been absorbed in defense circles.
That warning, issued by then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in Oct. 2012, struck many as a fear-mongering plug for defense and intelligence funding at a moment when many in the United States, including 32 percent of those polled by the same Defense News Leadership Poll, believe the government spends too much on defense.
But 45 percent of the 352 industry leaders polled said cyberwarfare is the gravest danger to the U.S., underlining the government’s shift in priority – and resources – towards the burgeoning digital arena of warfare. In 2010, the Pentagon created the U.S. Cyber Command, under the helm of NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander, to better prepare the U.S. for a potential attack on digital infrastructure.
Later that year, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn said cyberspace had become “just as critical to military operations as land, sea, air, and space.”
The nebulous term "cyberwarfare" refers to full-on conflict between countries or terror groups featuring digital attacks on computer systems. But its more devastating, violent impacts are considered by many analysts to be largely theoretical at this point.
Looming fears of cyber attacks on pacemakers of world leaders, for instance, have inspired movie plots and television shows but are not known to have occurred, noted Morgan Marquis-Boire, a security researcher at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab. “At the moment, this is all set in the realm of science fiction."
Marquis-Boire said the most kinetic cyberattack to date was probably the Stuxnet worm that attacked Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in 2010, stoking fears of a cyber-triggered nuclear terror attack. In the U.S., the most prominent cyber attacks have targeted websites, including the Syrian Electronic Army's infamous White House bomb hoax that briefly caused a 140-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
But the classic fear is that enemy hackers – from countries like Iran, China, or Russia – could infiltrate the U.S. power grid, shutting down government agencies, crashing planes into buildings, and grinding the economy to a halt.
And though it has yet to happen, security experts say a large-scale attack on the U.S. power grid that could inflict mass casualties is within the realm of possibility. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation reported in 2009 that the U.S. grid remains susceptible to infiltration despite substantial government investment in securing it.
“We do have a security problem whereby life is rushing towards the Internet faster than we’re developing Internet security,” said Marquis-Boire. “Many of these systems weren’t built in a cyberwarfare age. We weren’t worried about cyberwarfare when we built the national power grid, and it’s difficult to retrofit security.”
The impact of such an attack could be devastating. Massive power outages could not only unleash chaos, they could also distract from a simultaneous military – or terrorist – attack.
That latter concern – that cyber war tactics might blur with traditional terrorism – were underlined in June 2012, when information security expert Eugene Kaspersky announced his lab’s discovery of the Flame virus that targeted computers in Iran.
“It’s not cyber war, its cyber terrorism and I’m afraid it’s just the beginning of the game,” Kaspersky said at a conference in Tel Aviv. “I’m afraid it will be the end of the world as we know it.” A few months later, Panetta compounded fears when he warned of a “new, profound sense of vulnerability” in the U.S. due to the prospect of cyberwarfare.
But with the exception of several high-profile hacking incidents of websites, the American public has yet to experience any sort of large-scale attack on U.S. infrastructure, let alone American lives.
Despite the improbability of a full-on cyber conflict, analysts say they are not surprised the nebulous threat posed by cyberwarfare has struck fear in American hearts.
"The capability is out there to launch a large-scale cyberattack resulting in loss of life or property damage, and potential targets are in some sense infinite, because everything is connected to computers in one way or the other,” said Tara Maller, a research fellow with the National Security Studies program at the New America Foundation and a former military analyst for the CIA.
"But do I think it is very likely another country would launch a cyber attack of this type on the U.S. right now? No, because I think there is some level of cyber deterrence that exists between states," she said.
The prospect of cyberwarfare between world powers might be compared to a nuclear standoff: Unless geopolitical dynamics shift, it's difficult to envision a viable scenario whereby any state's capacity to wreak havoc and mass casualties is actually deployed. A "cyber" Pearl Harbor – like the real one – could spark a world war.
"I don’t think there’s any country right now where tensions are high enough for the state to essentially carry out an act of war against the U.S.," added Maller. "It could make more sense for a terrorist group, but they have more limited capabilities."
The FBI Admits Its Primary Focus Is "Not" Law Enforcement
Recently, the FBI made a significant change to its self-proclaimed primary focus in its fact sheet from “law enforcement” to “national security.” This change merely confirms what I and countless others have claimed to be true for quite some time. That the entire regulatory, security and intelligence apparatus of these United States has been redirected away from protecting the Constitution and the rule of law, toward a narrow focus on protecting the economic and social positions of the oligarch class at all costs under the guise of a “war on terror.” We have seen many signs of cronyism at the FBI for decades now, something most accurately pointed out in the priceless image“All My Heroes Have FBI Files.”
While this change to the FBI fact sheet is just confirmation of something we already knew, it’s still mind-boggling to see it shoved right in our faces:
TechDirt covered this story well. Here are some excerpts:
A couple years ago, it was revealed that the FBI noted in one of its “counterterrorism training manuals” that FBI agents could “bend or suspend the law and impinge upon the freedoms of others,” which seemed kind of odd for a government agency who claimed its “primary function” was “law enforcement.”You’d think that playing by the rules would be kind of important. However, as John Hudson at Foreign Policy has noted, at some point last summer, the FBI quietly changed its fact sheet, so that it no longer says that “law enforcement” is its primary function, replacing it with “national security.”
Of course, I thought we already had a “national security” agency — known as the “National Security Agency.” Of course, while this may seem like a minor change, as the article notes, it is the reality behind the scenes. The FBI massively beefed up resources focused on “counterterrorism” and… then let all sorts of other crimes slide. Including crimes much more likely to impact Americans, like financial/white collar fraud.
So… what has the FBI been doing?Well, every time we hear anything about the FBI and counterterrorism, it seems to be a case where the FBI has been spending a ton of resources to concoct completely made up terrorism plots, duping some hapless, totally unconnected person into taking part in this “plot” then arresting him with big bogus headlines about how they “stopped” a terrorist plot that wouldn’t have even existed if the FBI hadn’t set it up in the first place. And this is not something that the FBI has just done a couple times. It’s happened over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. And those are just the stories that we wrote about that I can find in a quick search. I’m pretty sure there are a bunch more stories that we wrote about, let alone that have happened.
All of these efforts to stop their own damn “plots” screams of an agency that feels it needs to “do something” when there’s really nothing to be done. Thousands of agents were reassigned from stopping real criminals to “counterterrorism” and when they found there were basically no terrorists around, they just started making their own in order to feel like they were doing something… and to have headlines to appease people upstairs. The government seems to have gone collectively insane when it comes to anything related to “terrorism.”
This morning The Daily Sheeple reported that the biggest sun spot in recent history had been identified on the sun and that it had moved into position facing earth. The spot is so large that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it could swallow three earths.
(Photo by Rocky Raybell : Sun spot AR1944 is so big it can be seen with amateur telescopes)
The spot was mostly quiet for the last few days and wasn’t directly facing earth, though a smaller Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) glanced the planet in the early hours of January 7th.
Massive sunspot AR1944 has erupted. The X1 flare has sent a coronal mass ejection into space, and it’s heading towards Earth.
NOAA has upped the risk from further X-class flares to 50% for the next 24 hours. Risk of M-class up to 80%
The NASA-ESA Heliophysics Fleet is monitoring the sunspot and CME. Depending on its speed it could take anywhere from a day to three days to hit earth. NBC News reports that the flare is already responsible for radio traffic disruptions.
(Pictured: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a blast of activity originating from the center of the sun’s disk on Tuesday)
Though an X-1 Class flare is not going to cause widespread power outages across earth, the possibility of increased activity on the sun has been noted by NASA and other researchers, as the sunspot destabilizes further.
The rapid formation of sunspot AR1944 and the earth-facing ejections highlight how quickly life on earth could change if the right conditions are met.
In the summer of 2012 a massive solar flare was ejected by the sun and narrowly missed earth.
Had it occurred just a week prior, the highly charged particles would have struck earth and, according to CU-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker, would have led to nothing short of a technological disaster across the globe.
The CME itself was massive… and its speed was unprecedented, clocking in at 7 million miles per hour.
While typical coronal mass ejections from the sun take two or three days to reach Earth, the 2012 event traveled from the sun’s surface to Earth in just 18 hours.
“The speed of this event was as fast or faster than anything that has been seen in the modern space age,” said Baker.
Had it hit Earth, the July 2012 event likely would have created a technological disaster by short-circuiting satellites, power grids, ground communication equipment and even threatening the health of astronauts and aircraft crews.
But that flare wasn’t a once-in-a-million-years event.
A decade ago in 2003 NASA identified the most powerful flare in recorded observational history:
In 2003 a solar flare emitted by the sun was the most powerful in recorded observational history, measuring in at levels so high that had it hit earth it would have likely disabled everything from the internet and mobile phones, to water utility plants and the whole of the U.S. electricity infrastructure.
That event was originally thought to have been an X-28 class flare, more powerful than necessary to take out modern electronics across earth. It was later revised to a “whopping” x-45.
These events occur quite regularly in the grand scheme. Recent observations suggest at least several occurrences in a lifetime. For the last hundred years since electronics made their way into our society we’ve been lucky, having experienced just minor disturbances.
But as the last decade shows, it can happen at any time and the after-effects would be catastrophic.
We could have events in the future where the power grid will go down and it’s not, in any reasonable time, coming back up. For instance, if when the power grid went down some of our large transformers were destroyed, damaged beyond use, we don’t make any of those in this country. They’re made overseas and you order one and 18 months to two years later they will deliver it. Our power grid is very vulnerable. It’s very much on edge. Our military knows that.
So how does one survive such an event, where pretty much everything we have come to expect in our just-in-time modern society comes to a screeching halt within seconds of the disaster striking?
Imagine for just a moment what would be going through your mind and the minds of those with whom you share this report if sunspot AR1944 had emitted an X-25+ Class solar flare that was heading for earth right now and that it would be here within 48 hours.
Would you be prepared for what happens when the national power grid collapses? Would you be ready for the catastrophe that would follow within a matter of hours?