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Richard Stiennon on WikiLeaks, Cyber Riots and Surviving a Cyber War

Richard Stiennon, Photo: twitter.com/stiennon

Richard Stiennon, author of the new book Surviving Cyber War, has a sobering message about cybersecurity. While many information security experts are warning of the future threat, in an interview with cyber news and analysis site The New New Internet, the author and chief research analyst at IT-Harvest, said it’s time to acknowledge reality: Cyber war has already happened.

Specifically, he’s thinking of the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict, where cyber attacks occurred in concert with “tanks rolling across the border.”

In fact, despite all of the chatter describing the cyber mischief of WikiLeaks supporters, Stiennon said he hews to a more rigorous classification.

“My definition of cyber war is using network-based attacks against computer infrastructure coinciding with physical attacks,” he said.

Along with the 2008 incident, he also notes other supposed cases or near-instances of cyber war tactics: the contemplated use in the first Gulf War with Iraq, and the supposed use in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.

But, as cyber-war rhetoric has heated up recently, Stiennon said most of it holds very little value.

“I don’t think there is any value in heightening the rhetoric because all of these attacks are not only possible but have been going on,” he explained. “It’s much more important for those that are responsible for the security . . .  of our infrastructure to just pay attention to what has happened and start reacting to that, not reacting to some future threat that has not materialized yet. You can’t predict what that future threat will be. There are too many openings, too many types of dastardly things people can do.”

For example, he said, who would have predicted the attacks against companies like MasterCard and Visa after they cut off donors’ access to WikiLeaks?

But, while the attacks were certainly disruptive, don’t even think about calling them the opening shots in a cyber or information war.

“What we have going on online right now is people that think that they are anonymous engaging in cyber riots,” he said.  “They get together and decide on their targets and they start lobbing the equivalent of digital bricks at their targets’ windows. They are breaking those windows and doing that damage but nothing that shuts down the business.”

For more on Stiennon’s take on WikiLeaks, Stuxnet and how the United States can survive a cyber war, visit The New New Internet for the full interview.

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