Testimony Spotlights China, Russia, Iran

By David J. Smith

Copyright © 2012 Potomac Institute for Policy Studies

Some recent statements from senior U.S. officials merit attention:

•James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, Worldwide Threat Assessment http://1.usa.gov/yCPXd0

•LTG Ronald L. Burgess, Director, DIA,Annual Threat Assessment http://1.usa.gov/zxqOOF

•ADM Samuel J. Locklear, answers to the Senate Armed Services Committee in connection with his confirmation as Commander, U.S. Pacific Command. Bill Gertz, “Chinese Cyberwarfare Prep,” Washington Times, February 22, 2012 http://bit.ly/xcnxA2 Continue reading

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90,000 Webcams on the Blink

By Khatuna Mshvidobadze

Copyright © 2012 Potomac Institute for Policy Studies

Following Russia’s December 4 Duma elections, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his United Russia Party suffered the dual embarrassments of having their election rigging exposed and, nonetheless, failing to reach 50% of the vote. Putin refused the demands of street protestors to rerun the parliamentary elections, looking forward instead to the March 4 presidential election. During his December 15 annual television call-in show, he said, “I ask the central election commission to install web cameras in all 90,000 polling stations in the country and to put the footage on the internet so the whole country can see.” Continue reading

Darkness Botnet and Russian Politics

By David J. Smith

Copyright © 2012 Potomac Institute for Policy Studies

This complements the piece by my colleague, Khatuna Mshvidobadze, immediately below.  It is adapted from an article published in Tabula last April.

Last March 24, Russian anti-corruption blogger Aleksey Navalniy’s LiveJournal blogsite sustained a DDoS attack.  Two days later, a DDoS attack was launched against his rospil.info website,which focuses on government procurement. Continue reading

Russian Elections: Social Media Overwhelm Botnets

By Khatuna Mshvidobadze

Copyright © 2012 Potomac Institute for Policy Studies

Opposition leaders are saying that the December 4, 2011 elections for the Russian State Duma were the last to be controlled by television. Or maybe they were the first in which television lost control. For the Russian opposition, the Internet—blogsites and social networks—became the arena for news, organization and discussion of alleged government misconduct. Continue reading

Promoting and Enhancing Cyber Security and Information Sharing Effectiveness Act (PRECISE) of 2011 (H.R. 3674)

By Damian R. Taylor

Copyright © 2012 Potomac Institute for Policy Studies

On Wednesday, February 3, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation aimed at formalizing and regulating how critical infrastructure is protected against cyber threats.  Spearheaded by California Republican Dan Lungren, the bill is called the “Promoting and Enhancing Cyber Security and Information Sharing Effectiveness Act (PRECISE) of 2011” (H.R. 3674). Continue reading

The Big Idea

By David J. Smith

Copyright © 2012 Potomac Institute for Policy Studies

Welcome to the blogsite of the new Potomac Institute Cyber Center! Our mission is to offer multi-disciplinary technology policy expertise, experience, analysis and exposure to the discussion and development of cyber security in the democratic countries. Cyber security is one of the pressing issues for US security and the security of all democratic countries. Indeed, General (Ret) Michael V. Hayden, USAF—former Director of both the CIA and NSA—told the prestigious Munich Security Conference last Sunday, “We have not internalized how really big a deal this is.”

The Potomac Institute is the country’s premier technology policy think tank, and that is important because the cyber challenge is not about technology, but technology policy. On this blogsite, we will share with you our thoughts about current cyber issues—and we hope to hear back from you. So let’s get started!

General Hayden’s remarks at the Munich conference were right on target. The Internet, he explained, was designed for efficiency, speed and movement of large volumes of data to a limited number of nodes that are known and trusted. Today, the number of users is virtually unlimited, many are unknown and many of them are untrustworthy. The result is the current cyber security challenge.

“Most of what is going on right now,” Hayden said, “is stealing stuff.” But the Stuxnet worm was a harbinger of things to come. Never mind that Hayden—and I—think that setting back the Iranian nuclear program was a good thing. The point is that a cyber weapon caused kinetic damage—1,000 centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz Nuclear Facility literally spun out of control. Hayden is correct—we understand that fact on one level, but as societies, we are yet to internalize its full meaning.

However, Hayden’s aim was not to reiterate that this is a really big deal. His core message was that the technology issues are hard but, in the General’s experience, the most difficult aspect is “the big idea.” Which past rules of behavior transfer to the new situation and which do not? One has to go back, Hayden said, to the European discovery of America to find a development so disruptive to existing behavior patterns as the Internet.

When people consider the threats, Hayden said, they see the cyber domain as a “zone of conflict,” and they want their government to do something about it. Then they reach for their smart phones to tell someone about it and their perception of the cyber domain morphs into a “zone of personal communication” in which they want minimal government interference.

That is a technology-induced social and political dilemma, not a technology dilemma. Hayden sees technology policy as the real challenge. “What is it you want your government to do,” he asked. And, “What is it you will permit your government to do in this new domain to protect you and your information while still protecting your privacy?” These are precisely the big ideas to which the Potomac Institute Cyber Center plans to contribute. Please have a look at our first offering, a blog by my colleague Damian Taylor.

You can see General Hayden’s remarks at http://bit.ly/xLTDNS.