Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cyber Pearl Harbor

I’m an amateur student of military history who has written several blog posts in the past discussing physical warfare concepts and how they can be applied to the cyber world. For example, I’ve written about how the Battle of the Atlantic and the Battle of Britain provide lessons that can be applied to cyber warfare. Thus, I’m the last person who will say that it’s inappropriate to apply lessons from the physical world to the information technology world. So while it can be an appropriate thing to do, it can also be done in a haphazard manner that doesn’t correctly respect the historical record. The term “cyber Pearl Harbor” is one that is increasingly being used in a manner that just doesn’t make sense from a military history perspective.

120702-N-VD564-016 The Pearl Harbor attack involved the nation of Japan engaging its military to strike a substantial blow against Pacific Fleet of the United States Navy. The damage that was inflicted on the US Navy was such that it provided the Japanese military with a decisive military imbalance in the Pacific that it exploited until the American military was able to rebuild and regroup. In my mind, for an attack to be accurately labeled “cyber Pearl Harbor” it would need to involve a cyber attack that accomplished a similar objective. A reasonable example of “cyber Pearl Harbor” could be a nation-state using a cyber attack to substantially degrade another nation’s ability to respond to future attacks in either the physical or cyber world. An incident where an attacker unexpectedly brings down a power plant without any further attacks isn’t “cyber Pearl Harbor”. That’s certainly a serious incident, but it’s not equivalent to the Pearl Harbor attack.

Another term that I’m having even more trouble with is “cyber terrorism”. The American English version of the Oxford dictionary defines terrorism as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” The Oxford British & World English dictionary defines it as:

the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims:
the fight against terrorism
international terrorism

For a cyber attack to be accurately defined as cyber terrorism, the attack would have to have a violent result or at least some sort of intimidating effect. I just don’t see how a DDoS attack or even something destructive like Stuxnet clears this bar. In my mind, for something in the information technology world to be considered “cyber terrorism”, you’d need a result where you had the loss of life or a substantial and intimidating impact such as taking down a power grid of a major city. An action like a major urban power outage could very well result in indirect loss of life (heat related deaths during summer months) and violence (riots). It’s not that this couldn’t happen, but we just haven’t seen it yet.

Google Takeout

Tom Thomas is the marketing director over at IACIS. He posted to the IACIS email list recently about a Christopher Null authored article he discovered in PC World that explained Google Takeout. Tom was nice enough to give me permission to pass along what he posted to the rest of the team through the blog.

The Google Takeout webpage explains that “Google Takeout allows you to download a copy of your data stored within Google products.” Null explained in his article that:

Google wants you to keep using Search, Docs, and Google+, so it’s trying to play nice, and last June Google introduced a service designed to let you see, in part at least, what Google knows about you with a single click.

Eric Zimmerman’s Tools

Unsurprisingly, the Eric Zimmerman interview generated a tremendous amount of interest in Eric and his tools. One of the popular questions has been how to obtain the various tools that Eric has created and made available to the law enforcement community. You can contact Eric through the FBI’s Salt Lake City Division or you can just send me an email and I’ll pass it along to Eric.

Digital Forensics Email Lists

Another one of the questions that came out of that interview was a request to know which email lists that Eric was participating in since that was mentioned in the interview. I won’t disclose what lists that Eric participates in, but what I will do is contact some of the people who run the various lists that I am on and get permission to post their membership requirements and how to join. Some of these lists have few requirements for membership, but others are more restrictive such excluding people who do criminal defense work.

About The Photo

Photo credit information from the United States Navy:

120702-N-VD564-016 PEARL HARBOR (July 2, 2012) Sailors man the rails aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) as it passes the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. Nimitz is participating in the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise 2012, the world's largest international maritime exercise. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 29 to Aug. 3, in and around the Hawaiian Islands. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith W. DeVinney/Released)

Thanks to the United States Navy and all of the other services who make these photos available for people like me to use. Thanks to Chief Mass Communication Specialist DeVinney for his service and his excellent photographic work.

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