In Rebuke of China

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Tom Schram

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In the current issue of Foreign Affairs, former NATO Commander General Wesley K. Clark and current Department of Veteran Affairs CTO Peter Levin write: 

“There is no form of military combat more irregular than an electronic attack: It is extremely cheap, is very fast, can be carrier out anonymously, and can disrupt or deny critical services precisely at the moment of maximum peril.  Everything about the subtlety, complexity and effectiveness of the assaults already inflicted on the United States’ electronic defenses indicates that other nations have thought carefully about this form of combat.”

Cyber attacks are the new guerrilla warfare, and as Google has learned in China, no business, however large or technically sophisticated, is immune.  Google’s threat to shut down its operations in that nation – cutting the cord on its relations with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and richest market opportunities – shows how very seriously the Web giant takes China’s actions.  No company can afford the risk of continued exposure to cyber attacks that imperil the entire enterprise.  If Chinese web saboteurs can hack the Google accounts of its nation’s activists, what might they do next?

As a former Navy cryptologist and current head of a network security solutions firm focused on the small business community, I have dedicated my life to combating cyber attacks.  Despite the best efforts of the security community, these attacks rose 10-fold to 44,000 incidents of malicious cyber activity between 2001 – 2007.   One of the key reasons for this astounding increase: The perpetrators are no longer just high school kids out for bragging rights on who they hacked, but highly-trained – and paid – professionals.  When these criminals work at the behest of governments or related entities with a malevolent political agenda, the correct response is equal or greater force. 

Whether or not Google carries through with its threat to close operations in China, the proposed counterforce of actually taking such action was appropriate and should be applauded.  Frankly, it is high time that our own government took a stand also.  Like it or not, this is war and there is no appeasing cyber terrorists.

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Michael Menefee Tom, your point to "perps" not just being "script-kiddies" anymore is an important one...the level of knowledge and financial resources used by many far outweighs the level of knowledge and financial resources of most legitimate enterprises...script kiddies are a thing of the past (although they exist) but the cyber-enemies of enterprises are far more damaging these days. If Google's decision to pull out of China had anything to do with this topic, they made the right fiscal decision IMHO...
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Anthony M. Freed Exactly - this is a world-wide economic force now. There is a lot of money to made through these new criminal enterprises, whether they are state sponsored or not!
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James Crawford Tom Schram correctly connects the rise in cyber-terrorism with the explosion in cyber-attacks on businesses large and small. Whether conducted by governments or individuals, all such activities are criminal in nature and demand swift justice. Unfortunately, most businesses lack the power and resources of a Google to fight back.

I know Tom, and in typical fashion, he is too modest about his own role in helping stamp out cybercrime. His company, Wiresoft, was the first to develop the Unified Threat Management technology that today protects so many of America's small businesses from viruses, spam and other breaches of network security. Under Tom's leadership, Wiresoft is still the market "thought leader." Tom, keep up the good work!
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