by Jacquelyn Schneider
July 27, 2021
https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/ ... are-500787
caltrek's comment: Those that complain that not enough conservative sources are cited in this forum should note that Jacquelyn Schneider is a Hoover Fellow at the Hoover Institution. That institution is a decidedly conservative think tank. Politico frequently features such conservative commentators.(Politico) Even for those of us who watch cyber warfare closely, the seeming barrage of cyber-related headlines in 2021 has felt remarkable. This spring, the Biden administration sanctioned Russia for last year’s breach of network software firm SolarWinds, which allowed Russian hackers to access major U.S. government agencies and over 18,000 companies. A few months later, Russian cyber attacks were back in the news, with purported Russian criminals extorting oil distributor Colonial Pipeline and meatpacking firm JBS for millions of dollars in ransomware payouts. Ransomware attacks have become so widespread that exhausted cybersecurity firms are turning away desperate customers.
Meanwhile, last week, the United States, NATO and the EU pointed the finger at China for a massive breach of a Microsoft exchange server, propagated by cyber mercenaries hired by the Chinese Ministry of State Security. The countries’ joint statement is all the more remarkable given both NATO and the EU’s unwillingness to brand China an “adversary.” And on the same day, researchers revealed a multi-state effort to hack and monitor presidents, monarchs, journalists and more, using spyware created not by the Russian government, China’s security apparatus or the National Security Agency—but by a private Israeli company called the NSO Group.
So what is going on in cyberspace, and did anyone see this coming? In 2011, hot off a social media-propelled democracy movement dubbed the Arab Spring, a cyber document released by the Obama administration waxed almost poetic about the promise of digital openness for the international order. But only a year later, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned of “cyber Pearl Harbor,” followed in 2015 by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s “cyber Armageddon” warning.
What we got was neither the unbridled promise of digital cooperation nor a fiery cyber apocalypse. Instead, today’s cyber reality seems simultaneously less scary and more of a hot mess—a series of more frequent, less consequential attacks that add up not to a massive Hollywood disaster but rather to a vaguer sense of vulnerability. This can make it hard to understand what’s going on and how bad it really is. Are all these high-visibility cyber events more of the same, or are we living through a new era of cyber warfare?