Austin Hill: While most of us, including myself, know very little about cyber warfare, the good news is that some among us are trying to fix that problem.
By now we've all seen the news headline: "North Korea suspected in widespread U.S. cyber attacks." And although it may sound strange, I actually got somewhat of a "sneak preview" on this one.
But I had no idea that what I learned about in Tempe in June would actually be in the news headlines in July.
About three weeks ago I accepted an off-handed invitation from a friend to visit the University of Advancing Technology - a private school in Tempe - and listen to a lecture on the subject of "cyber warfare." It's a subject about which I know very little, but given how much I use Internet-based communications technologies, I thought it would be worth my while.
It turns out that, while the school was facilitating the event, the event itself was actually being put on by the Arizona Security Practitioners Forum, a group of security professionals from around the Valley who gather to talk about their industry and their "mission." And while I had no idea what to expect, I left the event wanting to know more.
Brett Scott is the owner of Live Square Security, an Internet security firm headquartered in Gilbert with security team members located in Los Angeles, New York, and Europe. Theft of intellectual property, loss of confidential employee or client data, and obstruction of information flow are some of the common cyber problems that interfere with American businesses. As the keynote speaker at the event, it was no surprise to hear Scott address these issues.
Business and personal data being "hacked" is one thing. But foreign governments and terrorist organizations trying to immobilize our country is something very different.
"Well over a hundred countries around the world have been developing the means of targeting American banking institutions, public utility companies and government databases," Scott said. "China - one of our largest trading partners and holder of an enormous amount of American debt, is one of the greatest offenders. Our government would like us to think that we are in a state of peaceful coexistence with China, and militarily speaking, this is true. But in terms of cyber warfare, and counter-cyber warfare, China is well ahead of us."
And then, as if to predict the near-term future, Scott explained that North Korea is one of our greatest adversaries on the cyber warfare battlefield.
"Think of what we're hearing right now about this country," he said. "The dictator may potentially lob missiles at Hawaii over the Fourth of July weekend. Whether that happens or not, I'm not sure, but I'm here to tell you that they already have the potential to do as much damage to us with cyber attacks as they could with missiles."
North Korea is not known for its cyber technology sophistication, but, according to Scott, they don't need to act alone. "They (the North Korean government) are networking with others around the world, and it's very difficult to know exactly where the enemy is, geographically speaking."
That's part of what I heard one night in the middle of June. Earlier this week, North Korea was said to have attacked the U.S. Treasury Department, the White House, and the Secret Service. Interestingly, the Washington Post's Web site got attacked at the same time.
While most of us, including myself, know very little about cyber warfare, the good news is that some among us are trying to fix that problem. Scott himself was recently invited to speak on the subject at a forum in Tucson, along with Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, our state's top law enforcement agent who appears to be taking the problem very seriously.
More importantly, we all should be taking the problem seriously. Study up and get informed. Cyber warfare will likely be in the headlines again soon. See what Brett Scott is doing at www.livesquare.com.
Austin Hill of Gilbert comments on political and social issues every Sunday. He hosts talk radio around the country and frequently is a guest host for Arizona's Newstalk KTAR (92.3 FM). He is the author of "White House: Confidential - The Little Book of Weird Presidential History" and is a national columnist at Townhall.com. Contact him at info@Austinhill.net.