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Dr. Cyber Strangelove

By James Warner

So, here we are. Two weeks ago, “All Quiet on the Cyber Front” remains that…Quiet. Not in the sense nothing has happened, but nothing so devastating, or shocking, that the world stood still. So far, the U.S. has not invited the Russians in to see the “Big Board” as General Turgidson describes it in Dr. Strangelove. Also, we have yet to see the U.S. involved in squaring off with Russia to “preserve our precious bodily fluids”. Are we going to snap like Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper and fly off the handle for fear the Russians are going to take over? That remains to be seen.

What appears to be happening is, that in the last few weeks, Russia has suffered a significant number of cyber-attacks. For as much as Russia has suffered at the hands of hackers and the Hacktivist Group “Anonymous,” they have remained fairly quiet. At the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we witnessed a “tit for tat” approach, yet Russia remains stoic and has yet to trigger any significant retaliation. Russia’s oil pipeline, a top Russian meat producer, and the Central Bank of Russia have fallen offline.

It leaves me to question, what is Russia’s angle? Why remain steadfast and appear to be weak in front of a global audience? If history reminds us of the Cold War and thinking back to nearly 40 years ago with the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, Russia does not want to appear weak. Could their ardent stance mean they are stockpiling a cache of “weaponry?” Perhaps a cyber mechanism so powerful they could shut down critical infrastructure, as we have stockpiled our nuclear weapons to load onto waiting B-52s? While these questions remain on the table, think about protecting yourself. Drop it down to an individual scale. How can you protect what is important to you?

One, like a B-52 on an alert pad, remain alert to your online activity and your family member’s activity. Think about the websites you visit, such as your online banking, shopping, or the occasional website for your news updates. Two, this may be a no-brainer, have strong passwords. Use a password strong enough to keep the “bad guys” out, but easy to remember. Avoid using birthdays, names, or anything related to your personal information. Three, use “Multifactor Authentication,” having multiple steps to access your information is like an additional wall surrounding your fort. You are the center of your base. Make it difficult for an enemy to penetrate through your walls.

Cyber is a full member of the escalation chain, and while it’s not a doomsday device waiting to be ridden into Armageddon, it has yet to reach its full potential, and we hope, it never gets deployed at scale against anyone’s critical infrastructure. There are no “Cyber” WMDs, but they could yet do a lot to slow the growth and attractiveness of the Digital World for us all to live in.


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