United we can overcome anything. September 2017 hurricanes were incredibly destructive but as long as citizens of the United States of America stay united restoring electricity and cleaning up will only take a few months. Unfortunately, while we're focused on cleanup and restoration of normalcy, cyber-enemies are launching invisible attacks that threaten our ability to remain united and powerful.
Fifty-five years ago I swore "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God." This is a different kind of warfare.
The best trained soldiers, sailors and marines,
equipped with the best traditional weapons in the world,
can't save us from cyber-attacks.
Internet enabled foreign and domestic cyber-criminals use our desktop computers, laptop computers and smart phones to invade our homes in an attempt to instigate division into warring tribes and steal our money.
Russians interfered in the 2016 election in an effort to foment divisiveness and create citizen distrust of electoral processes. According to USA Today tens of thousands of highly-skilled Russians in Troll Farms, posing as Americans, created and constantly shared phony personal posts and Fake News in support of candidates they favored while defaming candidates they opposed. Facebook has admitted these Russians also bought and paid to publish thousands of political advertisements. Even worse they used Bots to automatically forward their Fake News to hundreds of thousands of voters in months leading up to the election. There's no need to alter vote counts if voters are tricked into voting the way bad guys want them to vote.
Equifax, one of three domestic credit bureaus that store everyone's personal data, provided cyber-criminals with the names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, passwords and driver's license numbers of nearly half of all Americans. According to says Robb Reck, chief information security officer at Denver-based Ping Identity "This information is perpetually valuable. You are not going to change your name or date of birth or Social Security number. They will always be the same, unlike a credit card that takes five minutes to cancel over the phone. This opens the door for total identity theft." This breach of security may well wreak havoc with each of us individually, and with the overall world economy, for decades.
We can protect ourselves. It's tempting to open Email attachments and to click on Facebook and YouTube sites. Nigerian princes seeking help laundering pilfered millions are obvious frauds. Very official looking Amazon notifications I've earned a prize are less obvious. Attachments from crooks pretending to be family and friends are almost impossible to resist. Think before clicking.
Microsoft is taking cyber-attacks seriously. As much as I dislike Windows 10 updating to ten is necessary. Ten comes with firewalls installed then constantly updates them to block new attacks as soon as they're detected. In addition, programs like Malwarebytes Premium provide another layer of protection. Being careful seldom gets people hurt.
Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter take cyber-attacks seriously. All social-media platforms are now so infected with Fake News, and responses from Fake Americans, it's hard to believe anything posted. Each company has hired thousands of monitors to cleanse their sites but in reality it is impossible to hire enough people to monitor the 400 hours of content posted each minute on YouTube alone. Each of us can help by using corporate links provided to report suspected sites, by blocking suspected sites and by NOT sharing Fake News. I only read posts from legitimate news organizations like the New York Times, azcentral, PBS or from specific authors I trust.
Equifax got caught. Hopefully the U.S. Government will make an example of Equifax executives. They hid their data breach until they could protect their personal financial interests which is illegal. They attempted to make money by selling violated customers the Equifax Premium Security Program - while ironically making them forfeit their ability to sue Equifax for damages. We must find a way to reward corporate wizards who craft cost-effective ways to protect our data.
Universities can help. Marc Andreesen and fellow students at the University of Illinois invented the browsers that make it possible for ordinary people to use the Internet. Universities are full of young geniuses and professors who learn from them. Federal cyber-security research contracts will focus the talent of our brightest and best on development of cyber-security solutions.
We're mobilizing. The United States Military Cyber Security Command is charged with development of weapons to both defend the information security environment and launch offensive attacks against enemies who seek to harm us. The Homeland Security Cyber Security Division is charged with discovery and prosecution of criminal malicious internet activity aimed at a profit gain, hacktivism, phishing, zero day attacks and espionage.
Cyber-attacks that destroy our ability to unite as a nation and recover are more dangerous than Class 5 hurricanes. The United States of America can solve any problem as long as we remain vigilant and united.
The Internet has helped us thrive because it is open to everyone. We want it to continue being that useful ubiquitous tool but this is war.
Social Media platforms must remove Fake News, dishonest posts by Americans and all posts by Fake Americans.
Any platform that stores personal or financial data must maintain 100% security. We can't let foreign or domestic criminals steal our identities or money.
Not doing whatever it takes to defeat cyber-enemies is more dangerous than any imaginable traditional foreign or domestic attack. We can win this war.