Why Does the U.S. Keep Losing When It Comes to Internet Attacks?

Wildebeest being pursued by wild dogs. Photo by Cornelius Wessels. (Visit Mr. Wessels’ amazing photography site here.)

In 2009 the Israeli government along with the cooperation of the U.S. launched a cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear program using a computer worm that was known at Stuxnet. Accounts differ as to how much damage was done to Iran’s centrifuges. There is little doubt, however, that Stuxnet’s effect was significant. The concensus is that Iran’s nuclear program was set back years.

Where is another Stuxnet now that the U.S. government is seeking to halt North Korea’s development of a nuclear arsenal capable of hitting the United States? Is the U.S. not capable of hacking into the computer systems of a nation that has less than 10% of our population and a GDP that is at least 1000 times smaller?

There is also little doubt that Russia’s use of Facebook and Twitter to spread fake news and ads and even to organize rallies in the U.S. sponsored by non-existent organizations had at least some effect on our 2016 presidential election. The standard line so far by President Trump’s supporters is that it has not been proven that anyone changed their vote because of this Russian subterfuge. Okay, let’s grant that. But was Trump supporter turnout increased because of these ads/stories/calls to organize? Was the vote for Ms. Clinton suppressed by similar foreign tactics? That could have changed election results, could it not? (This is especially true if such influences were demonstrated in states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.)

But no matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, I think you’d accept that Russia continued and continues to invade our internet/political space. Facebook has already disclosed hundreds of ads/posts during the campaign that were paid for in rubles! Twitter was also compromised, according to many media reports. Are there people who still think (or did they ever think) that a 400 pound guy in his parents’ basement could have been the mastermind behind all the hacking of Democratic operatives’ computers in 2016, as President Trump once publicly posited?

So it’s obvious the U.S. needs to play defense. Our communications systems/our infrastructure/our you-name-it is at potential risk. But where is our offense? What are we doing in the cybersphere to affect the goings on in Russia? With the machinations of Kapersky Labs? Anything?

Are we going to end up like the stabbing victim whose body shows defensive wounds on his/her hands?

Are we going to end up like the noble African wildebeest in the above photograph who is being swarmed by wild dogs?
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About the author: Daniel Berenson contributes to Medium now and then — in this case now — with original and unique views on such things as squirrels, politics, fairy tales, and Spanish telenovelas. Please follow him or give him some claps — please be sure that’s in the plural — if you enjoyed this. Or better yet, follow him. And thanks for reading this.

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