Cyber Cold War? Probably Not

McAffee, a company that makes cyber security software, has released a report warning of a new “cyber cold war.”

I’m skeptical of how big a deal this is from a national security standpoint. Many businesses that have neglected security may face real problems. But I think most have done a decent job. On the whole, however, things that are really important (say, the electric grid, nuclear missile launches) are probably less vulnerable to outside attack than they were before computer systems. Although traditional espionage could always do in these systems (infiltrate the agency, steal codes, bribe employees), nearly everything really critical simply can’t be accessed from outside of certain secure facilities. Particularly post-9/11, even systems that probably aren’t truly mission critical have been physically firewalled in just this way. For example one well-known security related government agency I’ve worked for requires biometric identification of its own supervisors to manage its scheduling systems. The systems, furthermore, simply can’t be accessed over the public Internet.

I also don’t see a physical way to bring it down without physically destroying each node. Sure, cyber-attack is possible. But I don’t believe it’s a major national security threat.