• White Paper-KTC and Cyber Defense: Why the Cyber Pearl Harbor Comment Should Hit Home

    The US Secretary of Defense is not known as a “hyper” person; it is hard to expect that he suddenly has fallen into hyperbole. Indeed, KTC has been working in cyber warfare and cyber defense for many years. Many other firms and many people have been as well. But the work has been mostly in the darkness, not only so-called “Black” programs – but literally in the closed office/carrel where someone sits glued to a computer screen. In fact most hackers are lone wolves, and most corporations and government groups think those wolves are their enemy and so they create a small group, typically underfunded, to combat them. The lone wolves are only ONE enemy, especially since denial of service is such a widespread (and ever spreading) problem. But Mr. Panetta’s comments were more focused on nation state-sponsored, nationally approved cyber attacks; that is, this is ANOTHER enemy.  A Cyber Pearl Harbor attack is not a single inflatable sliding through the night waters.

    Our work has been focused on cyber offense – studying and tracking the large attackers, working with others to define, design, build, and field better “sentries” on the one hand and better counterattack forces to destroy the attack. The biggest problem we have seen is the best “sentries” are not local sniffers, since waiting for them to see the attacker means we are always reactive. The best “sentries” to date have been the intelligence groups – and there are more than most people think. But they need more help and more diverse coverage zones.

    Attackers most often attack on one vector, targeting not only vulnerabilities but also critical systems and linkages. These can be in a variety of fields. KTC’s verticals show our focus areas:


    The areas we have been more focused on for most of the last five years are hazardous materials (storage, shipment), power generation and distribution, and ports. These are not the only targets of course, but they are the ones we have been working on. Physical Security (PS), Integrated Security Systems

    When the Secretary called for a larger joint government-industry effort he was correctly asking for the right approach – to which we only would add that in this effort there is space for many players, from boutique firms with limited foci to multinational firms with many foci, from government groups in the business of warfare to groups involved only in non-warfare enterprises. The key is the critical infrastructure points and linkages, with their very criticality emphasizing their likely reliance on small and large businesses for products and services, ordinary citizens and diverse governmental connections. Critical, yes; interwoven, likely.

    In America and throughout the world we lately have seen a number of physical terror attacks; if we ever did doubt the scope or destructive potential of terror groups we do no longer. On the other hand since we have not doubted the scope or destructive potential of nation states and their armies when warring on their neighbors, we cannot doubt that a Cyber Pearl Harbor is a real threat, within reach of even groups which do not have stores of fissile materials or large missile delivery systems. Even small groups, backed by a government bent on destruction or disruption (economic, property, spirit) of an enemy can do extraordinary damage. KTC’s approach to physical and IT security.

    For more information, see these articles:

    Obama Signs Secret Directive to Help Thwart Cyberattacks

    NIST Awards $9 M to Promote Online Security and Privacy

    CyberSecurity Executive Order

    UK’s First Cyber Security Research Institute

    US Report: Sophisticated Hacking by China is Greatest Cyber-Threat

    The Cyber Shield: Agencies join effort to promote use of critical controls for cybersecurity; National Cyber Security: FBI unveils Next Generation Cyber Initiative

    Homeland Security Newswire: U.S. Military “Unprepared” for Cyberattacks by “Toptier” Cyber-capable Adversary: Pentagon


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