Over the past week, the defence practice group at Powell Tate communications and public affairs have been collecting questions for a reddit style AMA with P.W. Singer (director of the Brookings institute and author of Wired for War) on twitter.
I’ve always find it hard to make sense of much of the cybersecurity and cyberwar stuff I’ve read and I’ve always found this slightly worrying as I like to think I’m, ahem, a relatively smart guy with a keen interest in security and the cyber world we all now inhabit. Moreover, it’s interesting that cybersecurity hasn’t been on the syllabi of any of the security courses i’ve taken at any level of my studies. Fortunately, Singer’s forthcoming book Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know, looks like it’ll address this lacuna and provide a handy guide to cybersecurity for scholars and students of International Relations and Security.
I haven’t got my hands on the book yet, but the Twitter Q&A has provided a few short insights into some important cybersecurity issues. Below are just some of the highlights with a few comments from myself for good measure.
What?! It’s not China? Or organised criminal gangs? Or angsty teenagers in their bedrooms? Apparently not. It’s simply the fact that we don’t really understand cybersecurity and therefore don’t act in ways that are appropriate to ensure it. As in the offline world, it seems that cybersecurity threats from external actors are overplayed. It’s not a dangerous unseen enemy that poses the greatest threat to our security, it’s our own lack of understanding. And maybe if we stopped picking up USB sticks in car parks and plugging them in at work we’d be a little bit more secure.
The proto arms race sounds, and is, quite worrying. Viruses such as Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame are all allegedly weaponised forms of malware purportedly created by the USA and Israel. Intended to cause harm either by actually subverting Iran’s nuclear facilities or gathering information about them, I guess the problem with these is that once they are out of the bottle, anyone who gets their hands on them can learn from and adapt the code. Thus they’re a danger in the ‘wrong hands’ and they also undermine trust within the international community.
The second point about a more authoritarian internet seems to be something that is happening through both the NSA PRISM scandal and through the introduction of more and more legislation to regulate what can be accessed online.
It’s good to see someone actually involved in the policy world pointing out that the extent of the NSA online spying was both dumb and legally questionable. Something which several of the US NatSec community rarely point out.
Was the Fox News headline for this ‘4 month old potential terrorist launches biological weapon at airport’?! If not, it should have been.
The whole set of questions and answers is worth looking at so check out @peterwsinger and @PTdefense on twitter and drop your thoughts in the comment box below. Singer’s book looks like it’ll be a great read and I’m sure it’ll go into way more depth on the issues covered in 140 characters on Twitter.