This article is a cautionary tale about the dangers of an arms race. In this case, the arms were cyber weapons meant to combat terrorism, but were somehow stolen from the N.S.A. and sold on the black market. They were, in turn, used by terrorist forces against US allies, like Britain and the Ukraine. While the N.S.A. has remained quiet about all of this, the question being raised is, “Did the N.S.A. race to develop weapons without taking the proper steps to a) keep them secure and b) be able to shut them down should they fall into the wrong hands?” The answer to both seems to be no.
This article highlights the latest and most popular form of cyber attack today, RansomWare attacks. What they do is encrypt all the files on your computer, and direct you to a website where you can pay some sum of money to get the decryption key. They attack using vulnerabilities in the Windows OS, utilizing stolen N.S.A. cyber weapons. The latest attack started in the Ukraine, and quickly spread to 64 different countries, including the US. It wasn’t long before the email address associated with the hackers was shut down, so even if you paid the ransom, there was no way for them to send you the decryption key.
Based on all the research I’ve done for this assignment, I knew it was bad out there, but not like this. It would seem that, in our rush to either establish or maintain “arms superiority” we’ve developed weapons of digital mass destruction that are no longer under our control, and are being auctioned off to the highest bidder (usually terrorists) to do with as they please.I mentioned in my last post that we needed to shift from a political realist approach to a political liberalist approach, and this highlights that need. We’ve got to get experts on this, not just for cyber offense, but cyber defense, to ensure that whatever we develop doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. In the old days, barbed wire, a high wall, and some steel doors were all you needed to keep your secrets safe, but in the digital world, security seems lackadaisical at best, and that’s just plain unacceptable. This is the future of our conflict, to quote the first article, “every flash point has a cyber element”, so we can’t afford to let our guard down now. Unconventional enemies require unconventional means, we learned that in Afghanistan, and right now, we’re playing catch up with Iran, who is openly funding cyber terrorist organizations to keep their enemies off balance. Imagine what they could do, or have already done, with the N.S.A cyber weapons. Actually, I’d rather not think about that.