The Platform

Graphic by Lovepik

When you get a big incident like the shutdown of air traffic across the United States for several hours due to a glitch, you need to take a full assessment of what went wrong and determine what to fix before lives are lost.

One system crash is very suspicious, but no real cause for immediate alarm about potential foul play. That being said, when the air traffic control system of Canada goes down the next day, you need to start asking a lot more questions and asking them quickly.

Could there be foul play of a foreign actor probing our vulnerabilities? It could be in the realm of possibilities and should be investigated. When a third country’s air traffic control system goes down in the same month, it’s time to realize that the chances of all these going out are no coincidence.

Testing and debugging real-time systems is not something for amateurs or those who do not have a solid background in complex mission-critical systems. As someone who worked at Bell Labs in developing and testing real-time software which ran the Long-Distance Network, I can attest that any hiccup uncovered in any toll office on the network was completely diagnosed and assessed to see what the problem was and if it could be something that would eventually appear in other toll offices’ software. Sometimes, the analysis would take more than several days to complete. Back then, cyber threats bringing down the network didn’t really exist. The rigidity of testing was very structured and complete. If an office was down, big money was being lost.

Testing and security measures should be many times better than they were 30 to 40 years ago, yet real damage from cyberattacks is on the rise in both the public and private sectors.

GraphicThe incidents which just occurred across the United States, Canada, and the Philippines were not really spotlighted by the media as much as they should have been. Watching Tucker Carlson one night, a new revelation really seems to tie the knot as to the three events being related.

There is a big chance that some or all of the three countries paid off some ransomware with some type of cryptocurrency. It is very suspicious to see Bitcoin rising over the same period of time by over 20%. Looks like someone was buying up a “lotta coin” for some “anonymous transactions.”

The trouble with combatting cyberattacks and cyber threats is that those who are hit with them need to be honest when it comes to reporting the incident. In trying to build better defenses and close all the gaps when it comes to anti-virus software and other countermeasures, the more you know about the structure of an attack, the better the defenses become.

Looking at various reports on cybersecurity, no matter what software you use, the prevention of attacks is at best 90%. That means 10% of attacks still get through. That is too big a percentage and I have written about that gap in the past stating that we need to up the protection rate to the higher 90s percentile. No matter what, we can never attain a 100% percentile level of security, but we should be able to do better than build a digital Maginot Line. Just like we have air superiority in traditional warfare for a higher level of protection, we should have global net superiority on the Internet for electronic warfare.

In the past, many banks, retail chains, pipelines and other businesses which have gotten attacked kept quiet about their lack of protection. Frequently, people’s credit card information was stolen or in some cases, bank accounts were hit, and funds were transferred.

These types of attacks are growing and the demands for ransom have become common. You won’t hear about a lot of them, and some attacks may not even be uncovered for several years. There needs to be a new approach to cybersecurity where both the government and the private sector build more resilient electronic infrastructure which can withstand these increasing attacks that are doing real damage to many organizations.

Everyone needs to be aware of the importance of cyber security as cyberattacks become a common element of electronic warfare. Cyberattacks and bringing down critical infrastructure is the new choice of many terrorist organizations who have limited resources to create havoc for their enemies. Instead of physical bombs being placed in one strategic location, electronic attacks, which can do even more damage across an entire organization or enterprise and can be launched 100s of times within a minute, are becoming the “weapon of choice” in asymmetric warfare.

James Carlini is a strategist for mission critical networks, technology, and intelligent infrastructure. Since 1986, he has been president of Carlini and Associates. Besides being an author, keynote speaker, and strategic consultant on large mission critical networks including the planning and design for the Chicago 911 center, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor networks, and the international network for GLOBEX, he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University.