We need to uplevel our cybersecurity defenses before we are hopelessly outmaneuvered by tech savvy adversaries in China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.
That's the dire warning issued by David E. Sanger, national security correspondent for The New York Times. I urge you to read Sanger's news analysis in Sunday's edition of the Times and then check your own cybersecurity defenses to make sure they're fully up to speed.
Sanger paints a truly frightening picture of a nation unprepared for cyber warfare. The United States, he writes, lacks a strategy for dealing with cyber attackers. As a result, our information and our infrastructure face serious risk.
Part of the problem is a lack of transparency. Our intelligence community is unwilling to speak candidly about attacks on our assets, and that creates a false sense of security. Keeping us in the dark might save some government officials from embarrassment, but it won't help the nation.
Our opponents learned valuable lessons from the Stuxnet computer worm deployed successfully against the Iranian nuclear fuel program. Both the U.S. and Israel have denied being involved in the Stuxnet attack, but it raised the bar for cyber warfare and opened a new chapter in the history of geopolitical risk.
We need to prepare for daily incidents of cyber warfare on a global scale. We need fully developed strategy for dealing with enemies who aren't afraid to continually probe and test our systems for weak points.
We also need to stop talking about a "digital Pearl Harbor" and accept the fact that our opponents are more than happy to wage a war of attrition against us, chipping away slowly at our systems and institutions.
"We have focused far too little on the subtle manipulation of data," writes Sanger. Soon, he suggests, we will lose faith in veracity of elections, the accuracy of medical records and the safety of complex machinery. "Ultimately that absence of trust will destroy the glue of American society the way the Stuxnet computer worm destroyed those Iranian centrifuges. It will cause them to spin out of control," he writes.
Sanger recommends closing the cracks in our own systems as a first step. As the old saying goes, "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." Our vulnerabilities prevent us from threatening retaliation after we're attacked.
"One way to start is to make sure no new equipment goes on the market unless it meets basic security requirements. We won't let cars on the road without airbags, so why do we do less with the systems that connect them to the internet?" Sanger writes.
I agree. We have the best networks and IT systems in the world - leaving them vulnerable to cyber attacks makes no sense. Let's raise our voices and urge Congress to take the basic steps necessary to protect our information and our infrastructure.