A 367-page report prepared by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission and released November 2009, details cyber attacks targeting the United States.
During 2008 there were 54,640 total cyber attacks against the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) according to the report, citing data provided by U.S. Strategic Command officials. The number of instances significantly increased in the first half of 2009, when there were 43,785 cyber incidents targeting the DoD, the report states.
The military has spent more than $100 million in the first six months of 2009 alone repairing damage to its networks caused by such cyber attacks, stated Army Brig. Gen. John Davis, deputy commander for network operations.
These circumstances have been fueling congressional bills that could give the president the authority to “unplug the Internet” in cases of national emergency. The bill, from Senators John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, is part of a larger debate over what federal powers are necessary for cyber security.
In the best-case scenario, that power could enable the president to prevent cyber attacks on the power grid, air traffic control systems, or the root of the Internet. On the other hand, the government would be given the power to shut down vital telecommunications, financial, and corporate networks with claims of national security interest.
These scenarios are continually becoming more realistic as the Wall Street Journal reported in April of 2009 that Russian and Chinese spies have hacked into the U.S. electrical grid and left behind malware. If accurate then to protect the nation’s public and private operations unplugging the Internet may be the fastest solution to a dire situation.
The thought of such actions remind me of the movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” In that movie, aliens shut down everything on the earth that was powered by electrical current. It was done to give mankind pause to consider his actions and the pending consequences for behavior that was destroying the earth. We can only hope the zeal for destructive behavior by certain people never creates such a climatic ending.