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Cult of Cyberwar: The Chieftain flogs his book

Richard Clarke's book publicity campaign for "Cyberwar" bulldozes the media. Note Google ads for Raytheon and Northrop Grumman cybersecurity business operations tied to it.

It is not the first time this has happened. Clarke has always had a special talent for saying things the media loves to hear and repeat. And his sales pitch has been remarkable for its tenacity, consistancy and love of national disaster tales for over a decade.

Because of Its nature, we'll spend a little time looking back for its earlier versions.

From today's Washington Times:

A cyber-attack could disable trains, Mr. Clarke says. "It could blow up pipelines ... [or] damage electrical power grids. ... It could confuse financial records, so that we would not know who owned what."

From the New York Times in 1999, as sampled by this writer:

"US Monitors Millennium Trouble Spots Around the World" was the title of a Tim Weiner penned piece in the New York Times.

"From now until after the New Year's holiday, hundreds of FBI agents will be monitoring cyberspace for warnings, like ancients searching the skies for a sign, looking out for electronic assaults by hackers and tracking political extremists by computer.

"Civilian and military officials across the country, worried about an organized attempt to take down government computers, are watching everything from reservoirs to the Federal Reserve.


" . . . Richard A. Clarke of the National Security Council, repeatedly warns them that 'cyberterrorists' could launch computer attacks 'shutting down a city's electricity, shutting down 911 systems, shutting down telephone networks and transportation systems,' as he said in a recent interview."

From the Washington Times, in November of 1999, on someone else -- not Richard Clarke -- peddling a book on cyberwar:

"China could launch a devastating computer-run sabotage operation by attacking U.S. oil refineries, many of which are grouped closely together in areas of Texas, New Jersey and California."

"A [Chinese] computer attacker could penetrate the electronic 'gate' that controls refinery operations and cause fires or toxic chemical spills . . . "

However, in November of 1999, from Richard Clarke, as reported by the Associated Press:

"We could wake one morning and find a city, or a sector of the country, or the whole country have an electric power problem, a transportation problem or a telecommunication problem because there was a surprise attack using information warfare."

"Clarke compared the reliance [on computer networks] to former drug addicts enrolled in a recovery program," read the AP piece.

"We need to take a lesson from that -- at least they know they have a dependency problem. Many of you are still in denial."

From the Los Angeles Times, in October of 1999:

Richard Clarke: "An enemy could systematically disrupt banking, transportation, utilities, finance, government functions and defense."

And the granddaddy of all Richard Clarke cyberwar placemat stories -- Signal magazine's "Hidden Hazards Menace U.S. Information Infrastructure," from August of 1999:

"The greatest threat to U.S. security may come from internal software or hardware trapdoors lying dormant in the nation's critical infrastructure. The digital equivalent of Cold War moles, these hidden threats would serve as access points for criminals, terrorists or hostile governments to extort money, impel foreign policy appeasement or ultimately launch crippling information attacks on the United States," stated Signal.

There is "a very real possibility of an electronic Pearl Harbor," said Clarke to the magazine.

"Without computer-controlled networks, there is no water coming out of your tap; there is no electricity lighting your room; there is no food being transported to your grocery store; there is no money coming out of your bank; there is no 911 system responding to emergencies; and there is no Army, Navy and Air Force defending the country . . . All of these functions, and many more, now can only happen if networks are secure and functional.

"A systematic [attack] could come from a terrorist group, a criminal cartel or a foreign nation . . . and we do know of foreign nations that are interested in our information infrastructure and are developing offensive capabilities that would allow them to take down sectors of our information infrastructure."

For Signal, Clarke claimed "trapdoors" unspecified and theoretical, "some of which may already be in place, as the greatest potential threat to the information infrastructure. Residing in the operating systems of key networks that support the U.S. critical infrastructure, these trapdoors would provide windows of opportunity for any ill-intentioned adversary to wreak considerable havoc. 'It is at least theoretically possible that a nation could insert such trapdoors, and then make demands of the United States under threat to our infrastructure.'"

The cyberwar scenario was delivered:

"One possible scenario would feature a demand leveled by a foreign government or terrorist group. When the U.S. government refuses to comply, this adversary demonstrates its capabilities by reducing a region of the United States to chaos. 'I think the capability to do that probably exists in the hands of several nations,' Clarke stated. 'I think it could exist in the near future in the hands of criminal and terrorist organizations.'"


"Envision all of these things happening simultaneously -electricity going out in several major cities; telephones failing in some regions; 911 service being down in several metropolitan areas. If all of that were to happen simultaneously, it could create a great deal of disruption, hurt the economy . . . "

Sources in a longer piece here.

Citations from Google News tab today including "Richard Clarke," "Cyberwar" and the turning off of the electricity: At least 10

From non-cybersecurity expert, Michi Kakutani, in the New York Times this week

"Blackouts hit New York, Los Angeles, Washington and more than 100 other American cities. Subways crash. Trains derail. Airplanes fall from the sky.

"Gas pipelines explode. Chemical plants release clouds of toxic chlorine. Banks lose all their data. Weather and communication satellites spin out of their orbits. And the Pentagon's classified networks grind to a halt, blinding the greatest military power in the world."

The only things left out: The sky turning the color of sack cloth and cats and dogs fornicating in the street.

This article was posted in an earlier form at Dick Destiny blog here.


Comments (2)

Were the Estonian's on the recieving end of a cyberwar attack? Well, the Estonians think they were.

I will ask them as they are speaking in the same conference session I am at ITEC in London, UK, in a few weeks.

It is not starting a cyberwar that is the problem, it is ending one.

Pearl Harbour or 9/11 were spectacular failures as the attacker had no 'game plan' for the end of the war.

Releasing a few new viruses causes havoc, but when the dust settles, the attacked will resort to traditional violence to retaliate.

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