Obama to extend his powers to launch ‘preemptive’ cyber attacks

The latest power grab enables the President of the United States to launch pre-emptive attacks on anyone suspicious of planning to attack U.S. infrastructure.

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | FEBRUARY 5, 2013

President Barack Obama will have the authority to order preventive cyber attacks if the U.S. detects a potential threat from abroad. Officials consulted by several U.S. media say the administration wants to take action against the increasing number of attacks on computer networks in the country.

According to main stream media reports, Obama will sign a new executive order to take on new powers that enable him to start a new phase in American history: cyber wars. The Obama administration has recently studied the use of the available computer arsenal and its conclusion is that the president may assume such jurisdiction if a computer attack is sensed.

The Obama administration has worked on model legislation that would have passed both these powers as a framework of security standards to supposedly protect the country’s infrastructure as well as how the nation would respond to a cyber attack. The bill backed by the White House was rejected by the opposition in Congress, so the president, as he has done since his first day in office, will use an executive order to expand his power.

Remember the talk of a presidential internet kill switch? This is it, and the power to turn it on and off will now be put on paper.

Obama’s gesture coincides with recent reports of attacks by Chinese hackers to several U.S. media, so one of Obama’s justification to sign a new executive order that gives him unlimited power to launch a cyber attack is that his propaganda machine must be spared from any attacks so that it can continue lying to people about Obama’s real intention to grab the web. As it is widely known, no part of the United States sensitive infrastructure is ‘online’.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta used scare tactics last fall when he warned about a new “cyber Pearl Harbor” that could cause massive damage to American infrastructure. He mentioned that hackers could “derail passenger trains or cargo trains loaded with deadly chemicals” and that “there are cases in which intruders have gained access to control systems “of various parts of U.S. infrastructure. The Obama administration argues that any such attacks would be treated as an “act of war”.

The U.S. Department of Defense already created a new cyber command and ordered some sectors to increase its budget within the Army. Current legislation states that the U.S. can only carry out anti terrorist missions in those countries where it is involved in a war, but the new rules would allow the president and intelligence agencies to access foreign networks in order to detect possible attacks targeting the U.S. or  introduce computer viruses into their systems to prevent operation. That is exactly what the United States and Israel did to Iran last year even though there wasn’t any legislation approved neither by the Congress nor the president. What politicians in Washington are doing right now is simply coding what they’ve been doing for a long time. Of course any and all details about the so-called preemptive cyber attacks will remain secret.

The U.S. used cyber war to carry out an offensive against Iran, focusing exclusively on the infrastructure of its uranium enrichment plant, which in itself could have cause a massive nuclear accident. The project, inherited from the Bush administration, managed to block the operation of Iran’s nuclear program by introducing a computer virus in their systems, which showed that a nation’s infrastructure can be disabled or destroyed without previous warning and without bombarding buildings or civilian populations.

Experts say cyber warfare could cause serious damage to attack targets such as the U.S. financial system or transport networks. What those experts don’t point out is that very few nations, a dozen or less, have the technical capability to carry out such attacks, and that in the military community everyone knows who those countries are. Therefore, no preemptive strikes are needed. All it is needed is to remain vigilant instead of granting the president even more power than he already has.

What the United States is essentially saying is, do as we say, not as we do. The idea that the Americans intend to establish cooperation and exchange of information with governments and private entities in order to prevent a cyber Pearl Harbor, is as real as Santa Claus. The U.S. is simply announcing to the world that its next battlefield for conquest will be the world wide web, a territory rarely seen as the next stage in global warfare.

According to news reports, Obama’s main focus will be to prevent intrusions into the systems that manage the energy, finances chemical and basic services networks, none of which are ‘online’ or need to be online. The Obama Administration has publicly defended the U.S. response to cyber warfare, saying that it should focus both on preventing attacks as well as strengthening their computer systems to reduce the potential consequences of such an attack.

Since the supposed cyber attacks may not come from a nation, but could come from so-called terrorists groups, it is unlikely preemptive cyber attacks will be a real solution to them. The new power grab led by the Obama administration is mostly about grabbing the web to conduct its own terror plots, much like the United States has done in the physical world up until today. U.S. military dominance will extend itself from the ‘real’ world to cyber space.

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From Physical Fear mongering to Cyber Fear mongering

United States Cyber Command “warns” about cyber Armageddon.

Ask yourself, who has the power to carry out vast cyber attacks? Right, those who control cyber space.

by Bill Gertz
Washington Times
September 14, 2011

The general in charge of U.S. cyber warfare forces said Tuesday that future computer-based combat likely will involve electronic strikes that cause widespread power outages and even physical destruction of thousand-ton machines.

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, commander of the new U.S. Cyber Command, also said that massive losses of private and public data in recent years to computer criminals and spies represent the largest theft in history.

Threats posed by cyber-attacks on computer networks and the Internet are escalating from large-scale theft of data and strikes designed to disrupt computer operations to more lethal attacks that destroy entire systems and physical equipment.

“That’s our concern about what’s coming in cyberspace — a destructive element,” Gen. Alexander, who is also the director of the National Security Agency, the electronic spying agency, said in a speech at a conference on cyber warfare.

Gen. Alexander said two cases illustrate what could happen in an attack.

The first was the August 2003 electrical power outage in the Northeast U.S. that was caused by a tree damaging two high-voltage power lines. Electrical power-grid software that controlled the distribution of electricity to millions of people improperly entered “pause” mode and shut down all power through several states.

The example highlighted the threat of sophisticated cyber warfare attackers breaking into electrical grid networks and using the access to shut down power.

“You can quickly see that there are ways now to get in and mess with [electrical] power if you have access to it,” he said.

The second example was the catastrophic destruction of a water-driven electrical generator at Russia’s Sayano-Shushenskaya dam, near the far eastern city of Cheremushki, in August 2009.

Gen. Alexander said one of the dam’s 10 650-megawatt hydroturbine generators, weighing more than 1,000 tons, was being serviced and, by mistake, was remotely restarted by a computer operator 500 miles away. The generator began spinning and rose 50 feet into the air before exploding. The flood caused by the accident killed 75 people and destroyed eight of the remaining nine turbines.

A similar deliberate attack remains a huge problem, Gen. Alexander said, saying that destruction by cyber-attacks was outranked only by nuclear bombs or other weapons of mass destruction.

In developing cyber warfare strategies, Gen. Alexander said, the U.S. will respond to computer-based attacks as it will to other attacks. The government is adopting what he termed an “active defense” strategy aimed at bolstering the readiness of computer networks to respond.

The Pentagon’s cyberstrategy announced last summer calls for treating the cyberdomain as equal to the air, land, sea and space domains and leveraging U.S. technology to improve cyberdefenses for government and the private sector.

On information theft, Gen. Alexander said the problem is so pervasive that there are two categories for major companies: firms that are aware they have been hacked and the rest who remain unaware of the problem.

“What’s been going on over the last few years in the networks … is the greatest theft that we’ve seen in history,” he said. “What we’re losing in intellectual property is astounding.”

The four-star general said estimates of the value of lost corporate and government information range as high as $1 trillion. In one recent case, a U.S. corporation that he did not identify by name lost $1 billion worth of proprietary technology that was “stolen by the adversaries.” The technology took the company more than 20 years to develop.

The problem is “on a massive scale that affects every industry and every sector of the economy and government, and it’s one that we have to get out in front of,” he said.

Recent attacks on corporate computer networks include Sony’s system that affected 7.7 million video users in April and a second incident affecting 2.5 million users in May. Google, defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and the security company RSA also were targets of sophisticated computer attacks.

In May 2007, computer networks in Estonia were disabled by computer operatives from neighboring Russia.

“They had to disconnect their international connections to stop these attacks after several days. It was huge and greatly impacted Estonia,” Gen. Alexander said.

Asked about conducting offensive operations, Gen. Alexander said that current cyberdefenses are “far from adequate” and that more needs to be done before adopting more offensive tools.

“In cyber, we have not solved the defensive portion,” he said. “From my perspective, there is a lot that we can do to fix that before we take offensive actions.”

Response actions to cyber-attacks need to be carefully measured to avoid escalating from a conflict in the cyber-arena to full-scale conventional warfare, he said.

One example would be to “take down ‘botnets’” — malicious computer software packages — from the Internet.

Gen. Alexander defended the U.S. government practice of not identifying major cyber threats such as those emanating from China and Russia.

Confronting foreign government complicates efforts to track cyber-activity, he said.

“Candidly, if every time we say, ‘We know you’re doing A,’ they say, ‘Oh, you can see that?’ We don’t see it anymore. We don’t see them for a while.”

The foreign governments also seek to learn information about U.S. tracking capability and, when confronted, “all they do is deny it,” he said.

Gen. Alexander warned that cyber warfare is expected to continue and that defenses need to be improved. “Whether or not we do that, it’s coming,” he said. “It’s a question of time. People say, ‘Aw that’s five years out, it’s two years out.’

“What we don’t know is how far out it is, an attack in cyberspace, and what that will be? Will it be against commercial infrastructure, government networks? Will it be against platforms? We don’t know.”