Thursday, March 02, 2017

Planning for the Unthinkable

"Canada remains both a target for malicious cyber activities, and a platform from which these hostile actors conduct CNO [Computer Network Operations] against entities in other countries."
Annual Report, Canadian Security Intelligence Service

"It would come as no surprise that terrorism and violent extremism remained the most immediate threat to Canada's national security during the period covered by this report, and represented our top priority."
"The number of terrorism-related threats, the speed at which they evolve, and the use of technology and social media, has created some very real and complicated challenges for the service."
CSIS Director Michel Coulombe

"I think it is true that area [Internet-connected vital infrastructure] is relatively poorly defended."
"Many of those things that you would think would run on separate systems are actually connected to the Internet."
"Pipelines, power supplies, water treatment and things of that sort. We have had one example of a pipeline in Turkey that appears to have been exploded by remote control, by some kind of hack. So anyone who runs a pipeline is worried about things like that."
"It's certain that we are not where we want to be or where we should be."
David Skillicorn, computer studies professor, Queen's University/Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario
Getty Images
"The fact they've been able to conduct pretty sophisticated terrorist operations tells me that they have the ability to fly 'under the radar."
"The fact that they're able to do this successfully tells me that their cyber capabilities are very significant,"
"ISIS has two ways of doing it. One, people who are signed up to ISIS. And [two] perhaps people who are going to be paid a lot of money by ISIS to bring their talents to ISIS. I mean money is not a problem for these guys. Neither is their desire, their capability and their reach."
Amos Guiora, law professor, counterterrorism specialist, University of Utah.

"The stakes could hardly be higher. If our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, or our hospitals were successfully attacked on line, the impact could be measured not just in terms of economic damage but of lives lost."
"They have not been able to use it to kill people yet by attacking our infrastructure through cyberattack. They do not yet have that capability. But we know they want it, and are doing their best to build it."
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne
There are no countries around the globe, particularly those in the Western orbit, that are not alert to the very real potential of a disastrous cyber attack in our interconnected, online world where virtually all infrastructure, public and private, government and industrial, is connected to the Internet. There are those experts in computer warfare who view the possibility and eventuality of malicious attacks against state entities and their private partners as a cherished goal to be achieved for the breakdown of a nation's stability, security and public order.

Great Britain has just announced a £1.9 billion ($3.6 billion) commitment in new funding for its electronic spy agency, GCHQ. The purpose is urgent and twofold; for the development of tools in the United Kingdom's defence against cyberattacks and as well, to facilitate the structure and operation of offensive operations against extremist threats, conducted over the Internet. The Internet, both a boon to modern life and an open forum out of which the aspiration to do great harm in a new kind of modern warfare appeals to oppositional state actors and terrorist groups alike.

In the domestic setting the targeting of hospitals, airports and power plants would effectively shut down the civil operational capacities of any country, sending it into a desperate spiral of survival and imperilling its vulnerable civilian population while panicked government and defence departments would be reacting in less than spectacular fashion, its critical tools of communication, transportation and machinery impacted, leaving it helpless to mount a salvage operation after the fact.

Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE) has been developing tools to fight back, including cyberweapons to disrupt online chat groups, to shut down websites and even destroy computer networks. The response to such a devastating cyberattack whatever form it might take, would be to see a nation attacked by a state-sponsoring cybernetwork or terrorist group, attempting to restore functionality and fend off further attacks with its defensive arsenal down and out.

The goal is to keep one step ahead of those planning these doomsday scenarios.

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