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Should we be worried about a cyber war?

November 5, 2010

Seymour M. Hersh in The New Yorker:

Early this year, Richard Clarke, a former White House national-security aide who warned about the threat from Al Qaeda before the September 11th attacks, published “Cyber War,” an edgy account of America’s vulnerability to hackers, both state-sponsored and individual, especially from China. “Since the late 1990s, China has systematically done all the things a nation would do if it contemplated having an offensive cyber war capability,” Clarke wrote. He forecast a world in which China might unleash havoc:

Within a quarter of an hour, 157 major metropolitan areas have been thrown into knots by a nationwide power blackout hitting during rush hour. Poison gas clouds are wafting toward Wilmington and Houston. Refineries are burning up oil supplies in several cities. Subways have crashed in New York, Oakland, Washington, and Los Angeles. . . . Aircraft are literally falling out of the sky as a result of midair collisions across the country. . . . Several thousand Americans have already died.

Retired Vice-Admiral J. Michael McConnell, Bush’s second director of National Intelligence, has issued similar warnings. “The United States is fighting a cyber war today, and we are losing,” McConnell wrote earlier this year in the Washington Post. “Our cyber-defenses are woefully lacking.” In February, in testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, he said, “As a consequence of not mitigating the risk, we’re going to have a catastrophic event.” [More]

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