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All Quiet on the Cyber Front... The Post-Cold War Era Has Ended, What’s Next?

By James Warner:

Thinking back 50-60 years ago, our world was vastly different than it is presently. No longer do we see B-52 Bombers sitting on the alert pad waiting for the alarm to go off with aircrew running to their aircraft, loaded with nuclear bombs, to drop bombs on a predetermined target or circling the airspace along the Pacific Coast up to Alaska. Long gone are the days of Strategic Air Command, preparing for a bomb to drop, or a “Bay of Pigs / Cuban Missile Crisis” situation. I wish I could say long gone, but it appears a new situation is brewing, but not in the manner in which history has shown us.

The world is more interconnected than the days of black and white television, having three channels to choose, and your night is ruined because the president came on, interrupting your favorite television show. We are faced with a new evolution of a “Cuban Missile Crisis.” This new weapon we face works in the background. You cannot see it, hear it, and you may not know it’s there. The click of a button, and your entire infrastructure experiences catastrophic damage.

In the days leading to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian government agencies and its largest banks were hit with cyberattacks. The government agencies and banks were hit with Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks. The attacks forced information systems to work intermittently or were not working at all. Then, “magically,” the website of the Russian Parliament, MoD, and the Kremlin go offline. Later, the hacktivist group “Anonymous” hacks Russian TV channels, and another Malware known as FoxBlade targets Ukrainian networks. It is a race to see who can damage whom.

The Ukrainian IT Army is claiming responsibility for site outage at the Moscow Stock Exchange. They are giving themselves a big pat on the back for knocking out the site within five minutes. The measuring contest going on is an indication that something bigger and badder may be on the horizon. Which leads to questions like, “What does Russia have in their back pocket?” “How bad is it going to be?” “Will the U.S. become a target?” The “New Cold War” may not look like the old, but the U.S. Cyber Defense must be in position to counter the effects the Russians have in store. Our physical capabilities, i.e. the Armed Forces, are prepared for worst, but can our critical infrastructure hold up to what may be in store for us? The U.S. can impose sanctions against Russia in minutes, not weeks or months as “the old days”. As John Scalzi recently said, the Post-Cold War Era has a start date on November 9, 1989, and now it has an end date on February 24, 2022. What the world waits for now is the answer to “what comes next?”

Stay tuned for my next post where I'll analyze the situation on the ground a little deeper and then move on to understanding the possibilities for "what comes next" as "CyPhy" threats advance in a new era of cold war.

About the author:

Jim Warner is currently the Superintendent of the Host Aviation Resource Management office for Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts. Jim has been an Aviation Resource Manager for 15 years. Prior to this career, he spent five years as an engine mechanic on B-52 Bombers and F-15 Fighters. Jim spent his Air Force career supporting multiple aircraft missions, from Bombers to Fighters to Remotely Piloted Aircraft at various locations around the world. He has a passion for telling great stories and working closely with customers. He is a graduate of Worcester State University with a BA in Communication and recently graduated with honors from Nichols College with a Masters in Counterterrorism.

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