Friday, June 3, 2011

I see your ICMP probe and raise you an ICBM

If you're not a tech-head then the title of this week's blog entry won't make a lot of sense to you.

However, once you realise that ICMP is one of the protocols used on the internet to communicate information between computers perhaps the meaning will become a little clearer.

Cyber-attacks are becoming an almost daily event in the 21st century, with "high value" targets such as US military defense contractors and even the suppliers of cloud-based services such as GMail, coming under repeated assault.

Now it seems that the USA has had a gutsfull and is contemplating categorising cyber-attacks against critical systems as "an act of war" -- something that would empower the government to retaliate with good, old-fashioned, guns, bombs and missiles.

Sounds scary, doesn't it?

Imagine if WW3 were to be kicked off by an errant IP packet that was mistaken for a cyber-assault or just happened to crash a pentagon computer by mistake?

Of course this won't happen, and nor will the USA retaliate against attempted or actual intrusions to its systems with lethal force -- and the events of this week demonstrate why.

Google has reported that some of its GMail accounts have been the target of concerted spear phishing attacks that, it is alleged, are coming out of China -- perhaps being the work of state-sponsored hackers.

The big problem is, and will always be, proving that any form of hacking or attack is the work of a state and not just a group of disenfranchised or militant individuals. Unfortunately, due to the very nature of the Net, it's simply too easy to mask the true origin of such attacks by the use of proxies and machines that have been "p0wnd" (ie: taken-over) by evil little sods.

To launch a military assault on a nation simply because it is implicated in a cyber-assault would be an act of incredible foolishness and likely to be the catalyst for even greater military conflict.

The USA won't be impressing anyone with this posturing stance and perhaps the UK has taken a more sensible approach to the problem. The British are planning to develop an arsenal of "cyber-weapons" that can be used to defend and retaliate against such online incursions -- perhaps the only practical way to handle such a situation.

In the meantime, if the USA really wants to bring a cyber-aggressor to its knees, perhaps they could unfriend them from the US government's FaceBook page. That would scare them!

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