Last week I wrote about the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Cyber ShockWave project that imagined a situation in which a foreign country or criminal syndicate attacked critical U.S. infrastructure through the internet. The event, which was filmed on CNN, is now available on YouTube . . .
For a synopsis of what went down, you can read this Washington Post article. Long story short: the U.S. is not capable of preventing such an attack and senior government leaders haven’t thought through how to adequately respond to one.
On a similar note, James Fallows in the March issue of The Atlantic pens an article on the Chinese cyber threat. Fallows is one of the best writers around when it comes to issues of national security and his articles in the run up to the Iraq war and its aftermath constitute some of the sharpest and most prescient commentary available on the subject. He even wrote the introduction to John Robb’s groundbreaking book Brave New War. Robb is the seminal thinker whose concept of systempunkt foresees the use of cyber war as strategy in which attacks against infrastructure and financial systems create cascading effects that potentially lead to the destabilization of society. I did a post on it here. It’s likely the designers of the exercise drew on Robb’s work in developing the Cyber ShockWave scenario.
Fallows argues the Chinese military recognizes that at its current stage of development it can’t go toe to toe with the U.S. military and that the Chinese government is more concerned about creating jobs and keeping its economy growing than it is in preparing for or getting involved in a conventional fight with the United States. What the Chinese are preparing for, however, are ways to fight asymmetrically via the internet, and in addition to attacking infrastructure and collapsing financial networks, Fallows envisions a doomsday scenario in which hackers can erase all the knowledge and information stored on U.S. based servers and databases. If this occurs, it’s difficult to imagine how we recover. Fallows doesn’t provide any answers. But John Robb does.