Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Government does war game on cyber attack: could cell phones become an Achilles heel?


On Wednesday, Feb. 17, Ellen Nakashima ran a story on p A3 of The Washington Post, “War game reveals U.S. lacks cyber-crisis skills: staged emergency displays need for strategy, organizers say,” link here.

This is not the 1983 movie “War Games” involving NORAD. Here, the Enemy mounts a massive surreptitious attack turning millions of cell phones and maybe Blackberries into zombies, shutting down the Internet and even the power grid. Does the government have the necessary authority to monitor or even quarantine cellphones? Does our entire grid have a “webroot”? Civil libertarians will be horrified.

Another question is whether individual cell phone or Blackberry users should be held reponsible for security them. I've noticed that Verizon once in a while updates my Blackberry with security improvements (as well as the Access Manager on the laptop); the automatic update can take ten minutes or so, during which the phone cannot be used.

In 2002, the media ran some stories on the vulnerability of power grids, but a good question is why they have any connection to the public Internet at all. (The Dominion Power outage viewer need not have any bi-directional path to the grid itself.) The August 2003 northeast power failure had to do with a hardware feedback loop in Ohio, not with the Internet. Maybe a bigger problem would be EMP (electromagnetic pulse). Perhaps eventually Dell and other manufacturers will cell Faraday devices to protect home users from any such possible future threats.

Picture: Schick uses the brand “Titanium”, but that’s the name of one of my unpublished screenplays!

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