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Bruce Schneier: A Cyber Cold War Could Destabilize the Internet 124

moon_unit2 writes "In an op-ed piece over at Technology Review, Bruce Schneier says that the cyber espionage between the U.S., China, and other nations, has been rampant for the past decade. But he also worries that the media frenzy over recent attacks is fostering a new kind of Internet-nationalism and spurring a cyber arms race that has plenty of negative side-effects for the Internet and its users. From the piece: 'We don't know the capabilities of the other side, and we fear that they are more capable than we are. So we spend more, just in case. The other side, of course, does the same. That spending will result in more cyber weapons for attack and more cyber-surveillance for defense. It will result in move government control over the protocols of the Internet, and less free-market innovation over the same. At its worst, we might be about to enter an information-age Cold War: one with more than two "superpowers." Aside from this being a bad future for the Internet, this is inherently destabilizing.'"
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Bruce Schneier: A Cyber Cold War Could Destabilize the Internet

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  • by hessian ( 467078 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @01:19PM (#43161207) Homepage Journal

    I must respectfully disagree with Schnier on this one.

    A cyber Cold War doesn't come about without another Cold War having occurred first.

    In this case, Cold War II is playing out between NATO, the Russians the Chinese.

    Just like Cold War I, this one is rooted in a practical geopolitical concern: who will be the ruling superpower for the next century?

    Expect a Cold War II, if you're lucky. If not, expect WWIII, which will probably be more limited than the last two but still devastating.

  • Anonymity (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @01:19PM (#43161213)

    Is the only true freedom we "had" left.

  • by codepigeon ( 1202896 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @01:23PM (#43161253)
    I could just be ill informed, but why do pundits, media, and government officials keep trying to push the idea that you need giant military organizations to lauch an attack (ala nuclear weapon building).

    Is it not completely possible that one intelligent man, $300 laptop, and an internet connection be just as "deadly" as any country's electronic warfare unit?

    And why this old relic of an idea of a cold war. I am sure that there are many individual actors that are in active attack mode.
  • by alci63 ( 1856480 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @01:30PM (#43161335)
    I liked this one ! Innovation on the Internet never really came from "the free market" and stating otherwise is pure ideology. It came from the ARPA, universities, the CERN, RFCs, etc... Profit minded companies mainly used the Internet and would really love to rule it, but did they bring innovation ? Seriously ?
  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @01:31PM (#43161345) Homepage Journal

    This 'cyber-war' is just an extension of the trade war that is really going on now, which itself is the logical extension of the currency war that has been in process for decades actually.

    Unfortunately for all, eventually currency wars and trade wars lead to hot wars, and nobody knows what the trigger may be. It may be some half important dude getting slaughtered in a hotel or it may be another round of 'cyber war' (and it doesn't even have to be a real one, all that matters is that news leak out that some important military installation has suffered in a serious cyber attack that 'stole' some heavy military secrets, wouldn't be the first time []).

  • by Dragoness Eclectic ( 244826 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @01:34PM (#43161383)

    "Cold War" is so 20th-century. In the 19th century, they called the same kind of schenanigans "The Great Game" -- it involved Great Britain, Russia, and Germany at the time. I have no idea what they called it in the 18th century, but it involved England and France, and a lot of hot wars between the periods of peace.

    Now China is playing the Great Game with us, and Russia is playing it with Europe.

  • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @01:41PM (#43161459) Homepage

    There's a conspiracy at all levels of every branch of the government, threatening to undermine the very freedoms America was founded on. It is so pervasive and the agents are so highly trained that they are only detectable in subtle ways. The agents of the conspiracy will never reveal their actions, and it is only by this secrecy that the conspiracy has persisted for so long and affected our government in so many ways. For decades, the American economy has suffered while China's has boomed, and the American people are entitled to know who is responsible for the tremendous economic victory in Asia and the dismal American defeat-the greatest defeat any nation has suffered in war or peace.

    It is essential, therefore, that we put the spotlight of exposure on those who are responsible for this disaster. This is important, not for the purpose of exposing past failures, but because those same men are now doing America's planning for the future. Unfortunately they have become so deeply entrenched that almost every power of the Government is used to sabotage any attempt to expose and root them out...

    ...I have tried to give you the highlights of a difficult and dangerous situation that exists. You have as a flaming backdrop to my remarks the facts of the world as you find them today. Cyberwar is no longer a creeping threat to America. It is a racing doom that comes closer to our shore each day. To resist it we must be intelligently strong.

    Such strength will come only from men and women dedicated to the wholehearted defense of democracy. The average American who constitutes the heart and soul of this Nation is so dedicated. We must be sure that those who seek to lead up today are equally dedicated. We cannot survive on half loyalties any more than we can find the facts of conspiracy with half-truths. []

  • by vbraga ( 228124 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @01:53PM (#43161577) Journal

    Is it not completely possible that one intelligent man, $300 laptop, and an internet connection be just as "deadly" as any country's electronic warfare unit?

    A large organization such a national electronic warfare unit is able to perform more target attacks: obtaining information about the target systems using other means such as human intelligence, coordinating a large team with multiple specialists (an exploit guy, a SCADA engineer, ...), being able to use again human intelligence to infiltrate the target, like bribing a guy to run a software from a USB drive or something like that.

    While a single individual might be able to pull a highly targeted attack, it is considerably easier to a large organization to have the necessary budget to hire different specialists, coordinate with other agencies to leverage their resources, and so on.

  • Has it backwards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @01:56PM (#43161617) Homepage
    The lack of a cyber coldwar has created a weakened defense situation where there are security problems everywhere.

    As with any war, the bad officers die. In this case, those companies that don't take security serious will die.

    Yes, in the short term a cyber cold war would cause damage, but in the long term, we would come away MUCH stronger.

    No pain, no gain. A cold cyber war would be painful, but we would come away much better off.

  • Re:Easy solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by a-zarkon! ( 1030790 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @02:00PM (#43161653)
    Hmm, well that needs to extend one level past the "enemies" to include all of the countries/geographies/etc. that do connect with the "enemies." You don't launch your exploits from your cyberwar directly from your connection. First you compromise a bunch of systems in other countries and use those as the launch point. Possibly nesting this several layers deep. Yep - just like in the "hacker" movies. You are creating plausible deniability and muddying up the water for anyone trying to figure out who is really behind the attack. This approach is also in pretty much direct opposition to the whole concept of the global economy. If you prevent Internet commerce and communications with large countries deemed to be the "cyber enemy" but who also happen to be a "major trading partner" it will certainly be disruptive to that trade. Go ahead and ask the obvious question as to why we are trading partners with our enemies - I can't figure it out either.
  • by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @02:26PM (#43161903)

    Profit minded companies

    Xerox, Bell Labs, AT&T, Kalpana (later Cisco) all put in huge parts, like Ethernet, switching and UNIX. People like Kevin Dunlap and Paul Vixie out of DEC gave us BIND (DNS)

    Here [] (under 'Affiliations') is a histogram of contributing authors to all RFCs. The title says "companies" but it enumerates non-companies like NASA, Berkeley and MIT. So citing RFCs blows a big hole in your own argument.

    Your training as an anti-corporate malcontent has given you some blind spots. The Internet is largely American (Western, if your being diplomatic) and created by for-profit entities. But feel free to continue indulging whatever illusions make you feel good.

  • by invid ( 163714 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @02:28PM (#43161927)

    For decades, the American economy has suffered while China's has boomed, and the American people are entitled to know who is responsible for the tremendous economic victory in Asia and the dismal American defeat-the greatest defeat any nation has suffered in war or peace.

    I'm fairly sure "the greatest defeat any nation has suffered in war or peace" would not leave said nation with the largest economy in the world or leave it with the largest, most powerful military. Pretty prose though.

  • by Looker_Device ( 2857489 ) * on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @02:53PM (#43162205)

    China's goal isn't destruction of lives and property. It's advancing their economic interests. The U.S. and other countries have that goal too, of course. But very few are going as far as having their military actively conduct heavy corporate espionage to benefit their native companies. The U.S. government may kowtow to corporations, but I can't imagine Apple going to the White House and asking the President to have the U.S. military steal Samsung's next Galaxy phone design for them. This seems to be an everyday thing in China now.

  • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @03:35PM (#43162601)

    Those plots are a bit misleading, as they intentionally leave out the Information Sciences Institute at USC. The ISI is responsible for drafting the lions share of early and fundamental RFCs including those defining IP [], ICMP [], UDP [], TCP [], SMTP [] and more. The internet did exist prior to 1988, unlike those plots would lead you to believe :) The core of the internet was developed almost entirely by government research agencies. Furthermore, the recent portions of the time plots are also misleading as they leave out "unknown" which largely consists of individuals who don't officially represent an organization.

    Now the Internet is commercialized, a large number the RFCs do come from large companies whose business in the internet, but they didn't create it, and their various attempts to create something similar over the years all failed, because they insisted on proprietary closed systems. The internet is a textbook case of how the government does well at fundamental research, and the market does well with mass deployment and incremental R&D.

  • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @04:46PM (#43163595) Homepage

    OK I admit I didn't click on your link, so I was responding to your post as if it was "real"... does anyone click on links on slashdot?

    I like to think they do before asking for a citation.

    How do you keep a government from taking and spending more and more money on the military industrial complex, when people are so easily manipulated?

    You quit assuming that the government is the enemy. The government is made of regular old people. Yes, they can push money off to military causes and vote for spying, but they can also be convinced to fight for privacy. What we should learn from history is that pursuing a government witch hunt doesn't actually improve privacy or advance peace, but instead only makes the targetted officials more likely to engage in fervent sabre-rattling, to demonstrate their devout patriotism.

    The way I see it, we're stuck in a cycle where the public doesn't trust the government to keep us safe. There are international and domestic threats that really have been around for centuries, but we're just now realizing that we're vulnerable. The government officials respond to this distrust by jumping on whatever popular demand they see, but what they see is dominated by lobbyists. The members of the public don't write any letters or support any campaigns to counter the lobbyists, because they don't trust the government to follow their demands. Of course, those demands are subject to being easily manipulated, as you mentioned...

    The real problem is that people are independent, and have a diverse spectrum of opinions on a diverse spectrum of issues. When the political winds blow against our particular ideals, we shouldn't cry about conspiracies and attack the legitimacy of the political system. Instead we should persuade others, both in and out of government, to join our own causes so that our ideas eventually hold the minds of a majority of representatives.

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