By Walter C. Jones –
National-defense policymakers need a way to gauge the severity of the increasingly frequent cyber attacks so that they canrecommend the appropriate strategic response, according to the chairman of the House Armed Services’ Emerging Threat Subcommittee.
“It’s a way to quantify the level of attacks, the intrusions. We’ve had a number of discussions, even on what is an act of war,” Rep. Joe Wilson, R-SC, told Morris News Service Wednesday, noting that in the one day since he introduced legislation to create the comparison guide a new cyber attack had struck the U.S. Army from Syria.
Wilson declined to list the range of options between diddling with the offending country’s internet to calling out the B-2 bombers. But he did say that the increasing reliance of modern society on electronic communications makes countries more vulnerable.
The developing “internet of things” in which household appliances like refrigerators and light fixtures can be monitored and controlled online only add to the risk that a hostile nation, terrorist cell or rogue military unit could cripple daily activity. That’s not to mention financial transactions and municipal services.
“I have long been concerned about the disruption of the electrical grid which could hobble American society,” he said. “That would be a situation where America would clearly respond.”
Wilson wants his damage-assessment gauge to serve as a deterrent to adversaries by letting them know the United States will indeed respond to serious attacks. But would hacking a private company like Sony, Target or Home Depot be sufficient or maybe 4 million federal employee’s personnel files?
He wants to leave that determination to the experts at the federal law enforcement, security and national defense agencies- -and especially the new U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence being developed at Fort Gordon near Augusta.
“How fortunate we are for that,” he said. “I see this as helping the cyber command.”
Wilson is on the right path, according to Joanne Sexton, director of the Georgia Regents University Cyber Institute, although she wonders why an act of Congress is necessary to make it happen.
“These days, it’s not about whether you’ve been attacked or not,” she said.
One challenge is that the pace of technological advancement is so much faster than the pace of Congress. What would constitute a major attack today might be small potatoes in a couple of years when cars are driving themselves.
Another challenge, Sexton said, is how to retaliate. Countries like China and Iran are less vulnerable than the United States because they have isolated internets and aren’t hesitant to simply turn them off themselves. And a small terror cell working out of a cave, tents or an internet caf? can change locations quicker than the United States can respond.
“That’s kind of a hard thing he’s asking for,” he said.
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