Tag Archives: cyber warfare

Not Your Grandmother’s Cold War

“I Led Three Lives,” a TV show in the 1950’s, was based on the story of an actual person, Herbert Philbrick. He lived as an American businessman, a Communist spy, and an American counterspy for the FBI. In those old days of the Cold War, the different sides used espionage and radio broadcasts.

Today, hacking and cyber warfare have overtaken the earlier methods.

Some worry that politics surrounding the testimony of former FBI director James Comey will blind Americans to Comey’s warnings about the serious Russian intrusion into our elections.

“The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle,” Comey said. “They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. And it was an active-measures campaign driven from the top of that government.”

Whatever Donald Trump and his election team did or did not do, the evidence overwhelmingly indicates the interference of a hostile power in our election process. European democracies have also been attacked. These attempts should be taken seriously by all political parties.

It seems like an age since the end of the old Cold War in the early 1990’s. Today’s young people weren’t around, and the over thirty crowd have forgotten the euphoria in Europe and the United States when Eastern Europeans danced in the streets and reclaimed their countries from the Soviets.

Americans were going to have a peace dividend and beat their swords into plowshares. Russians were going to have free elections and a free press and join the rapidly escalating democratization of the world.

Instead we seem to have fallen, like Alice, through a rabbit hole into a crazy place of fake news, hacked political systems, and the rise of strong men with dictatorial powers, like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte.

Our governments, national and local, are tasked with developing technical methods to neutralize cyber attacks. Citizens, however, have the duty of reading widely and responsibly. Fake news disappears without followers.

 

We Didn’t Worry About Cyber Warfare When We Used Typewriters

I typed my undergraduate college term papers on a portable typewriter. By the time of my graduate studies, I typed my work on a miraculous invention called the desk computer. No carbon copies. Mistakes easily corrected.

When I began a job as a computer programmer, we used a huge mainframe to take over mundane accounting and other tasks. Then networking and the Internet revolutionized what was already revolutionary.

Smartphones, tablets, and the Internet became as much a part of our lives as television and automobiles did in earlier years. We take them for granted. What company, even a small one, doesn’t have a web site?

These inventions cover the globe. Multitudes now have access to them. They include hackers and the foreign groups accused of stealing information from millions of government employees, contributing to mixed feelings toward these postmodern creations. They bring added vulnerabilities, including cyber warfare.

But even as we encourage the necessary technical skills to protect ourselves, we have deeper needs, lost sometimes in the pursuit of our digital tools. They include more face-to-face communities as well as educational opportunities for all our children. In this age, every adult needs education and training, not just a few favored computer techies.

 

Cyber Hate: Wrongs With No Faces

 

My computer picked up a virus even though I have anti-virus protection. I took it to our local techie to clean it up. Some of today’s powerful viruses, she said, can make it through normal anti-virus software.

One who wishes to cause harm can now perpetuate wrong against nameless, faceless victims in record numbers. Was the person who caused the infection to my computer angry at a wrong done to him or her? Were they in rebellion against society or the government? Simply a hacker who does these things for the fun of it? Safe to say that they did not know me, had never met me.

The damage to my computer data was minimal and quickly repaired. But people’s lives can be threatened if power outages happen in more serious circumstances: to electric grids or hospitals.

The news is full of the new combat, cyberwar. Enemies fight through the ether, striving to destroy vital networks.

Perhaps in a society where we increasingly communicate through devices instead of face-to-face, such developments are inevitable. Human nuances and vulnerabilities are filtered out.

What can alleviate our detachment from others? We need more than ever the small face-to-face groups. Families, faith nurturing, and communities are as essential to survival, surely, as the digital grids we depend on.