cyber news · politics · terrorism

CYBER WARS: The hackers are coming, The hackers are coming


The #FBI warning to U.S. state election boards to beware of hackers has all the makings of a spy-fi thriller.

The #Russians weren’t named in the FBI note, but lots of fingers are pointing to them. Top folks in cybersecurity cite a series of hacks that culled embarrassing information from the Democratic National Committee and the #Clinton campaign.  Intelligence officials, who weren’t named, pinned the attack on Russia, with one of the officials attributing the work to Russian intelligence agencies.

Remember that ‘what-another-goofy-moment-by-Trump’ comment where he encouraged Russian President Vladimir #Putin to dig up more dirt on Clinton. Some Clinton supporters suggested the mouth that roared’s encouragement of the enemy might be considered  treason.  The legal minds across the U.S. whirred on overtime and concluded #Donald_Trump’s_mouth may betray him but, so far, not the country.

What’s got everyone coiled tighter than a swiss movement is the potential for hacking the U.S. Presidential Election.

Remember when the outcome of the 2000 U.S. presidential election was left hanging by its chads pending a recount? Lots of Florida votes used Votomatic punch card ballots. If holes weren’t completely punched through, you got a ‘hanging chad’ with a corner or two still attached, or a ‘fat chad’ with corners intact, but dented. In either case, the votes weren’t counted.

The controversy ended the use  of punch card ballots in the United States.

Instead of machines messing up a small percentage of votes, this time around we have the prospect of a not-so-friendly foreign power intentionally manipulating democracy by falsifying election results. The repercussions, a large proportion of the population refusing to accept the result and resulting widespread civil unrest, could be more damaging to America than having its defense system hacked.

The Cold War’s long gone. Welcome to the Cyber Wars .

North Korea hacked computers at Sony Corp.’s Hollywood studio to retaliate against a film spoofing the country’s president Kim Jong Un.  President Barack Obama’s administration vowed to retaliate against North Korea proportionately.

When North Korea’s internet went down a few days later the White House would not admit to being behind it but issued no clear denial.

Off-the-record, U.S. cyber officials said the U.S. was behind the internet blackout in North Korea and Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, cited the outage as reprisal for disrupting computers at Sony.

Cyber espionage has been a game played by business and government for decades.

The Canadian Department of National Defence delayed its decision to transform the former Nortel R&D complex in Ottawa into its version of Pentagon North because it discovered a series  of listening devices at the facility.

For a time, Nortel was the most valuable company in Canada comprising more than a third of the Toronto Stock Exchange’s 300 Index and three times the value of all Canadians bans combined. Its spectacular fall casting 94,000 from their jobs was in part attributed to unrelenting hacks.

Nortel had been the target of industrial espionage for almost a decade. An internal security study by Nortel suggested that the hackers had been able to download research and development studies and business plans starting in 2000. The hackers also placed spyware so deep into some employee computers it escaped detection.

Hacking and theft of data can backfire in spectacular ways. A CIA operation against Soviet espionage during the Reagan administration was reported to be so successful, the White House worried it may have gone too far.

According to former Air Force Secretary Thomas Reed in his book At The Abyss: An Insiders History of the Cold War. the CIA duped Moscow by booby-trapping software that it learned the Soviets intended to steal. The Soviets installed the stolen software to manage a major Siberian gas pipeline. The software operated the pipeline well for awhile and then hidden instructions reset pump speeds and valve settings to pressures far exceeding the pipeline’s joints and welds. The blast caused “the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space” during the summer of 1982.

Nice yarn but not everyone, including the Russians, agree that’s what caused the explosion. According to the Digital Dao blog: by Jeffrey Carr the CIA, FBI and Department of Defense used leaked information on what the Soviets needed and produced flawed computer chips destined for  Soviet military equipment, faulty turbines for installation on a gas pipeline, and defective plans to disrupt chemical plants and a tractor factory. The Soviet Space Shuttle was a rejected NASA design.





The true cause of the calamity, according to people closer to the event, was a Russian engineer who kept increasing pressure to maintain the flow of natural gas when the equipment reported a leak.  A massive gas cloud built until a passing Russian train sent a spark that ignited the gas.

As history has shown us, the smarter and more technologically brilliant the human race becomes, the more we find ourselves at the mercy of our own stupidity.

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