Cyber Attacks Change Everything

7PM Wednesday April 21, 2010

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Every aspect of national, economic, and personal security needs to be
re-thought because of what can be accomplished by cyber attacks.

Scott Borg is the Director and Chief Economist of the non-profit U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit (US-CCU), and a Senior Research Fellow in International Security Studies at the Fletcher School of Tufts University.

He is responsible for many of the concepts and models that are now being used to understand cyber attacks and their strategic and economic implications. Over the last several years, he and his colleagues at the US-CCU have been centrally involved with most of the key developments in cyber security: in some cases anticipating or pioneering them, in other cases tracking them as they have happened, and in all cases, laying out their implications, not just for technology, but for our national and international future.

We are entering a new defense era in which cyber attacks are changing every aspect of security. The effects of a cyber attack could be as slow and hard to observe as a gradual loss of business information, undermining an industry's ability to compete. Or they could be as abrupt and obvious as a regional shutdown of oil and gas, water, or electricity. A major cyber attack could be carried out by large-scale government forces or by isolated bands of political fanatics. The target of a cyber attack could be an entire continent or some tiny group that the attackers happen to hate. The attack techniques are changing so fast that methods and policies for dealing with them that are only two or three years old can already be dangerously out of date.

How do we make sense of these developments? How much do our national or corporate policies need to change in order to deal with the new challenges? Which threats are serious worries and which are mostly just hype? Are we putting our R&D money into the right sorts of security technologies? How is your own computer, business, or online activity likely to be affected? What can we expect over the next few years?