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"Cyber War" Is Just the Latest Grab for Defense Money 161

New submitter Curseyoukhan writes "The phrase 'cyber war' is being used to scare us into coughing up money and liberties, just like 'anarchist' once was, and 'terror' still is. To quote H.L. Mencken, 'The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.'"
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"Cyber War" Is Just the Latest Grab for Defense Money

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  • Is this a US thing? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @08:08AM (#39855677)

    Cause I've not heard the phrase "cyber war" being bandied about like the wars on terror/drugs/etc have been.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @08:21AM (#39855755)

      Americans are a very curious species. There are two things you should know about them:

      1) Most Americans have never experienced real war of any sort. This includes those in the military, even those who have served in various conflicts, and even those who have killed during said conflicts. (Much of this killing has been done at great distances using missiles or munitions released by planes or drones, and was thus quite impersonal.)

      2) Most Americans have a so-called "boner for war". This is especially true of those who self-identify as "Republicans", but many who identify as "Democrats" are equally afflicted.

      Unfortunately, there are a lot of these people, and they have thus acquired much power within the American political system. To them, anything and everything they don't like needs to be crushed in a "war".

      It doesn't matter whether their target is alcohol or drugs or Islam or homosexuality or affordable health care or free speech on the Internet. To them, "war" is the only solution possible, and they'll refer to "war" incessantly when discussing such topics.

    • by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @09:59AM (#39856647)

      They're doing it in the UK too : Web War II: What a future cyberwar will look like [bbc.co.uk] ; and on the BBC. I wonder if it's just a few select plants in their newsroom, whether they are just being fed this stuff unwittingly, or whether their legendary neutrality is being eroded at an institutional level.

      • Well it would only remain in the cyber realm until lines are crossed and then you goto more traditional DA - In the recent BBC documentary on real spies William Hauge said that they had taken physical action - Gone hardcore to use the old school CP term.
    • It's really about getting new funding for the US Military establishment and their friends in private-sector contracting businesses. It lets companies who don't make heavy iron or high-tech weaponry sell consulting and overpriced computer system designs, and lets military departments who don't have overpriced cool airplanes (or can't get their next generation of cool airplanes) get more money to hire people and buy shiny equipment from politically well-connected vendors.

      That doesn't mean there aren't civil

  • Hobgoblins! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @08:09AM (#39855681)

    has anyone considered this latest Hobgoblin threat to the United States' civil security? We need to begin deploying elven rangers at our borders. It's the only way to be sure. I propose an Elven Archer High Command, taking pieces from DoHS, DOD, NSA, FBI, and other agencies which are clearly not as focused on the Hobgoblin threat as they need to be. We cannot allow American lives to be thrown away by caving into the Hobgoblin agenda.

    • We just need Spiderman.
    • by Talderas ( 1212466 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @08:46AM (#39855917)


      No no.

      No no no.

      We must begin deploying DWARF (Designated Warfare Advance Recon Forces) to defend against the hobgoblin menace. The best part is that all we need to send seven of them out with just a pickaxe and an axe and they are quite adept at constructing fortresses to defend against the hobgoblin menace. With a little bit of oversight we can make sure to avoid the lava cataclysm events that DWARF is prone to causing.

      • A pickaxe and an axe? Just a piece of bismuthinite, a piece of cassiterite, a couple of pieces of tetrahedrite, a random rock. They can rip apart their wagon and build an axe from the wood in it.

    • Well, people used to bad-mouth the Bear Patrol back when it started too. But I submit to you that we haven't had a single person killed in a U.S. city by a bear since it began. You can't argue with success.

  • Seriously? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @08:10AM (#39855685)

    While I do agree that it is in the military's best interests to keep things rolling financially, make no mistake in the fact that cyber criminals and foreign nations are actively penetrating and stealing sensitive information from the United States as well as other countries.

    • Of course that's true. But the cost of making defense networks secure is trivial compared to the cost of developing a new weapon system or surveiling the world.

    • Foreign nations are actively penetrating and stealing sensitive information from the United States

      That fact that the sensitive info is on a public network, or networks connected to the internet, is reason enough to believe there is incompetence involved. Incompetence is the largest factor in a compromised network.

      If you don't want your fruit picked, don't leave it so close to the ground.

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        That fact that the sensitive info is on a public network, or networks connected to the internet, is reason enough to believe there is incompetence involved.

        It doesn't work that way. Outside of the DoD, just about everything is connected to the Internet these days; workers expect to have access to the Internet for research while they work, or so that they can take breaks during the day and read their personal email.

        The fact that you can't make an inbound connection to those computers (because of firewalls,

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Yes, they are. And leaving aside the fact that most of the world does care about this type of crime (but does not particularly care about the US, which still falsely thinks of it as the pinnacle of human existence), this is just a very conventional IT security problem. There are far too many organizations out there that will fall even to a moderately competent individual doing a targeted attack. Calling crime "war" either just exceedingly stupid, or exactly what the original story said. That said, one thing

  • Yawn. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coldfarnorth ( 799174 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @08:11AM (#39855691)

    You are preaching to the choir, sir.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe you're not worried about the safety of the Information Superhighway, but I sure am. When I go surfing in cyberspace, I want to know that I'm protected. The World Wide Web can be a dangerous place, but if you take some precautions it'll be safe sailing all the way.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You just to create some synergy by leveraging the Best Practices of both Open Source and Proprietary Technologies.

      And wear a condom.

  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @08:12AM (#39855699) Homepage Journal

    ...tell the government where to spend our taxes. Me regarding the taxes I pay, your regarding the taxes you pay. Extrapolate that out to realize what all else gets fixed. If you don't trust the people, then you probably support rigged elections. Does a politician who does not follow through with their campaign promises that people voted for them for, represent the people? No Taxation without representation. I'd rather realize results as being representative rather than some a person claiming to represent me.

    The value of defense is more often to protect yourself from those you suspect of retaliation of the wrongs you've done against them. go figure what the cyper war crap is really about.

    • by dkf ( 304284 ) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @08:27AM (#39855789) Homepage

      ...tell the government where to spend our taxes. Me regarding the taxes I pay, your regarding the taxes you pay.

      Only problem is what to do about things that nobody wants to think about paying for despite the fact that they have to be funded. Often these are things that don't require a lot of money (can you think of anyone who wants to fund the retirement plans of federal auditors?) but without them all sorts of things just fall apart over time.

    • by richieb ( 3277 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [beihcir]> on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @08:34AM (#39855831) Homepage Journal
      "..tell the goverment".

      That means that you should be calling your Congress person. Are you? The elected representative is the guy/gal who determines how the money is spent.

      • by 3seas ( 184403 )

        We can instruct government at the time of filing tax returns and the tax return processors can then allocate it.
        We can remove congresses budgeting problem of, by us doing it instead.

        This really is a very simple solution but some just don't know how to realistically extrapolate it all out to realize all the benefits and corrections. These are the one who might also think the way to do math is to memorize the times table and all other answers rather than understand the mathematical tool set from which extrap

    • Politician don't represent the people and they shouldn't, they are elected because the majority of the voting population thinks they can do a better job. The problem with politicians today is that they try to represent the population which leads to pandering and appeasement instead of solutions. The best sports teams don't follow the fans advice the saying goes "If you listen to the fans you will soon be sitting with the fans".
      • by 3seas ( 184403 )

        No Taxation without Representation.... look it up.

        • Where should I look that up? It's not in the Constitution or any other legal document.
        • by geekoid ( 135745 )

          haha. Another person who flips out some phrase they actually no nothing about.

          Taxation with representation was a cute phrase whipped out by a group of men becasue ENgland was going to sell a large portion of the US to france. Thos emen had a vested interest in the land.

          A) Colonist were barely taxed. Most didn't pay any taxes at all.
          B) It was used to whip the ignorant masses into a frenzy.

          Finally, that vast majority of people don't know what the fuck they are talking about. Listening to them is stupid.


      • Say what? We elect politicians because we WANT them to represent us. THAT is their DUTY.

        Yes, we want them to do a better job than their predecessor. And, we want them to vote their conscience - provided that it is truly best for the people they are supposed to represent.

        Problem is, for far too many, it becomes about money and power. They abuse the system and people they represent. They spend more time trying to get reflected and not enough time solving our real problems. They become corrupt.

        Others try

        • by 3seas ( 184403 )

          The Declaration of Independence has instructions for the people, written by the experienced and wise founders of this country (Republic of the United States of America). They foresaw the probability of corrupt government and recognized the Peoples right and duty to put off such government and replace it with whet a system that adheres to the intents of the founders in protecting the interest of the people.

          This thread.is really rather exposing of the corruption that has become of slashdot posters. I wonder h

      • Politician don't represent the people and they shouldn't

        So tell me again why many of them have the job title of "Representative"? They're job is to give the people what they want - that's not "pandering" or "appeasement", that's democratic representation serving their constituents. They may have to balance several demands at once, and argue over how to make their demands a reality, but they are definitely supposed to be focused on doing what the voters want them to do.

        • There is no mandate that politicians do what voters want them to do.
        • You are correct, representatives are supposed to represent their constituents.

          However, to counter the fickle population, we had another house with officials selected by the states. This was supposed to be the body that, not depending on popular support, could take a more level-headed view of things. It was a great balance that the 17th Amendment killed by allowing direct election of senators.

    • How about I when I tell the government that I'd like 100% of my taxes to be spent on a tax credit for me? Of course, I still expect everybody else around me to pay for roads and other government services I use every day, but that's not my problem, right?

      The basic problem of government is that everybody wants services, but nobody wants to pay for them. You can see that in California's state government, where Prop 13 prevents the government from raising taxes for any reason, but other ballot issues require th

      • by tftp ( 111690 )

        People, if given the chance, seem to vote for insolvent government.

        It is better to have poor government and rich citizens than vice versa.

        Poor government is a self-solving problem. No money? They have whole blocks of cities that are full of bureaucrats. Get rid of them. If the entire government of California disappears overnight nobody will even notice. People don't need the government to live; it's an add-on layer that provides fewer and fewer services every year for more and more money. Now they are

        • There's obviously a need to strike a balance to achieve high levels of growth. Too high or too low causes problems. These are based off of the size of government by %GDP:
          Governments too poor to be effective: Afghanistan (9%), Turkmenistan (9%), Bangladesh (12%), Cambodia (13%)
          Private sectors too poor to be dynamic: Iraq (87%), Cuba (81%), Slovakia (66%), Timor (65%)
          G8 and permanent members of the UN Security Council: France (61%), Italy (55%), UK (50%), Germany (48%), Canada (48%), Japan (30%), China (22%),

          • by tftp ( 111690 )

            As far as your example of losing your family home, you benefit from local and state services, so you should contribute in some way to the upkeep of your government.

            It is lost on me how the square footage of my house, or the number of electrical lights, determine how much I should pay in property taxes. There is only one street, and only one driveway, and only one resident. I'd understand if property taxes were related to number of people who live there. But they are not.

            Well, making the people who are

            • If you do not work you do not eat.

              If people with more expensive property are expected to sell their homes then perhaps people with less expensive property should sell some of their organs?

              So am I correct in boiling your argument down to the idea that my right to keep my property is more important than somebody else's right to remain alive? That seems more than a bit callous. If the government is Shylock (who is actually a pretty sympathetic character, upset because Antonio's pal stole his daughter and all his cash), you seem to be Ebenezer Scrooge ("Are there no workhouses?").

              Losing one's home sucks. A lot. But it's a very different level of suffering from starving or living on the streets.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Because people are selfish and have no clue how to plan for decades? because most people can't even manage their own money? Because nothing would get done.

      I don't support rigged elections because they usually deal with issues on a larger scale.

      A voter may not like the economy, but they should be telling expert what we should specifically do.

      And how so you determine what amount? is the person paying the higher percentage get a higher say? is it real dollars?

      "Does a politician who does not follow through with

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @08:22AM (#39855765) Journal
    There is an unfortunate additional quirk in this case: Since, naturally, the 'cyberwarriors' don't want to be stuck purely in the tedious and thankless job of playing defense, there is a demand for 'offensive capabilities'. This creates a perverse incentive: If a flaw is disclosed and patched or mitigated, it is no longer of offensive utility, so now the market for zero-days and exploit payloads isn't just black hats, scammers, and criminals; but 'respectable' defense industry types.

    This is not a merely theoretical problem [forbes.com].

    VUPEN [vupen.com] is the crass, attention-whoring, bad-boy of the industry; but practically the entire who's-who of staid, tight-lipped, defense contractors has a division peddling bugs somewhere in the business.

    Even if we were 100% warm and fuzzy about the use these exploits are being put to by these firms customers(Only the good guys, pinkie swear!), this situation is insane from the perspective of actual 'security'. Whose economies, financial systems, and infrastructure depend most heavily on complex IT systems? Ummm, mostly wealthy developed countries. Whose citizens are most vulnerable to electronic compromise of financial information and such? Countries with high rates of internet penetration and lots of computers. Who has the capability to deploy electronic attacks against unpatched vulnerabilities? Virtually everyone.

    In addition to the usual grab for rights and money, this 'cybersecurity' industry begets insecurity, because of the demand for 'offensive capabilities', despite the fact that we are the ones with the most to lose in an insecure environment. At least classic corporate welfare military R&D is merely expensive, and once you hand over the money, Raytheon or whoever goes off to build some impractical toy that is largely useless; but at least largely harmless....
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      And they are overlooking a number of problems. One is that you can turn any type of malware around and use it against the attacker, unless the attacker is more secure than the attacked. Guess what, the whole world gets the same security patches. Until that changes, any offensive capability is highly problematic. Then there is the issue of how specific such a weapon is. The more specific, the easier any defense. The less specific, the larger the risk of unacceptable collateral damage.

      Those that want an offen

  • Move along citizen (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @08:26AM (#39855785)
    We've always been at war with Eastasia.
  • by Haedrian ( 1676506 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @08:30AM (#39855813)

    We cannot allow a cyber-war gap.

  • by Bananatree3 ( 872975 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @08:30AM (#39855815)
    Whether you like it or not, practically anything government-related today is tied back to corporations.

    The truth is there *is* a cyber war issue, just as there is a terror issue and yes, even a drug issue that needs to be addressed (meth).

    What get's confused is the border between appropriate action and sponsored action. What's appropriate today is spend billions on contractors hoping the problem will go away, and less smart allocation.

    Bloat's always been a part of government, but today we're seeing an extremely stark privatization of public money, and externalization of corporate cost in public debt...
    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      The truth is there *is* a cyber war issue,

      You have data to support that hypothesis?

      just as there is a terror issue

      In the US? I've seen no indication of such for over ten years.

      and yes, even a drug issue that needs to be addressed (meth).

      Yes, they should just legalize the shit so I can get cold medicine without looking like a criminal. If an adult wants to thoroughly fuck his life up with meth, why should I or my government stop him? I know quite a few hopeless alcoholics, and you know how that prohibition

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @08:31AM (#39855817)

    I recently gave a talk on Cyberwar, with the main conclusion that there is nothing new here or nothing more scary than the targeted attacks we have increasingly seen in the last few years. Defense against "Cyberwar" is the same as against any other targeted IT attack. Even Stuxnet is not impressive at all and the authors made several unnecessary mistakes that jeopardized its mission. (And in addition, it is in no way certain that the damage to the Iranian centrifuges was even caused by Stuxnet. The Iranis had started using their own parts in the centrifuges and "the devil USA did it" may just be politically more opportune than "we do not have the skills to make our own centrifuges" or "we are incompetent to operate centrifuges reliably".)

    But guess what? Some people in the audience were offended! Seems to me some people are so in love with their own misconceptions, that they rather be afraid than admit that they were wrong (and that they are not experts on the subject in the first place...). As long as this stupidity continues, the immoral manipulators using these memes will continue to be successful.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      As someone who has watched, monitored, and designed specialized security systems for SCADA, and Financial institutions, you are wrong.

      There are global coordinated attacks against many SCADA system, financial system. Other government agencies as well, but those are often much less professional.

      "Cyberwar" is defense against large scale coordinated attacks. So, yes the technical merits are 'the same' but in practicability, it is not. We now over large groups buying systems, then using them to test attacks agai

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        I am pretty sure I am right. I _know_ I am not ignorant.

        But as you chose to insult me, I am too lazy to find my sources again. The hints that Stuxnet is not great are very, very obvious. The only thing that allowed the attack is gross incompetence on the Irani side. Just one hint: I guess they never heard of independent monitoring systems for mission critical hardware. There is quite a bit more. Requires some searching though, and some engineering knowledge.

        As for coordinated attacks, you _can_ use cyberatt

  • by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @09:42AM (#39856447)

    The whole WWII think was made up? Damn! I knew Granddad told some whoppers, but I swallowed that one hook, line, and sinker.

    Pearl Harbor, Bataan (my great-uncle must have faked his death), Nazi's, and Holocaust were all imaginary. Go figure.

    Next you're going to tell me the Great Depression was fake too.

  • This [slashdot.org] is the latest grab for defence money. Cyberwarfare is getting old enough that some people will start to believe in it for the sole reason that they heard it so many times.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      I think you are exactly right. And "what I tell you three times is the truth" may exactly have been the strategy all along. Too bad it works nonetheless.

  • The big difference that makes this silly is how cheap it is to fix these problems. We've got technical solutions for all security issues, but nobody uses them. Fire the programmers who get caught writing buffer overflow vulnerabilities. This is like firing building contractors who use substandard nails. After the roof blows off it's too late. Don't let your inspectors get away with being bribed. Don't tolerate substandard work. All these problems have been solved, we just have to fire the idiots who don't u

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )


      Before doing that, we should make it a requirement to get a professional Engineering certificate and sign off on projects.

      That means people will have to sign off on projects, so if management pushes something, and the engineer doesn't sign off and t ships? it's the managers ass.

      The engineering culture needs to be embraced, and the classic geek cowboy culture needs to be let go.

      With out this, you will be next to impossible to even find the specific coder responsible for a bug, and it will be impossible

      • 1 it is likely that any certification legislation will be bought and paid for by Microsoft (or simlar companies) and will also legislate that that MS Visual Studio 2014* Enterprise will be required to be used and forbid the use of FLOSS tools.

        2 this will make it impossible to use FLOSS tools on any business computer (can't have "uncertified" software running on a Business System)

        3 it will not solve the problem since the Managers will force the Designated Engineer to "sign off" on whatever is needed when The

  • If it gives all the WoW kiddies a job, I'm all for it.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      The largest demographics of WoW players is women ion their 40s.

      The more you know.

      Also, welfare isn't as expensive as you think.

      • You got a source for that demographic data? That doesn't match with sources I've seen (like the often referenced Daedalus Project).

        Welfare is INCREDIBLY expensive when you consider the impact it has on society and the creation of a class of of people raised on a culture of entitlement. Government assistance should be either a short-term bridge or part of a long-term solution for the disabled. You are not entitled to a standard of living paid for by other people, and there should be NO type of work you wi

  • Are things as dire as the gov't and media regularly portray them? Probably not. Such hype gives the pendulum a push towards one direction. Are there real dangers out there from terrorists and politically motivated crackers? Yes. To discount them entirely as "imaginary" is simply asinine and reeks of the conspiracy theory mindset. That is the push from other side of the swing which sets up the oscillation. And when a pendulum swings, it spends more of it's time at the extreme ends than it does in the mid
  • Quotes like this are so dumb:

    The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

    First of all this doesn't belong in a summary since it's purely opinion.

    But second, it's a silly opinion. People don't wake up in the morning and think, "I'm going to menace the population with hobgoblins!" What people do think is things like, "we need to write a good ad for this anti-virus s

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Keep telling yourself that. What Mencken stated is an _observation_ and right on the mark. And while governments do not "wake up in the morning" to think about this, they have think-tanks, committees, meetings, experts, etc. concerned with this, as it is an on-going effort. It happens to also be one of the strategies used by quite a few of the proponents of religion. Hellfire, damnation, eternal pain, etc. same thing, just with a more long-term agenda.

      An no. The threats are not more real than other things a

      • Religion is a fine example of Mencken being wrong. I grew up in a fundamentalist community. If you spend your time looking around for some supreme leader who cynically sits around with his inner circle spinning stories he knows to be lies in service of an overt desire to control people, you will never find it. That's not what it is. What it is, is a bunch of people reinforcing each other in their mutual pursuit of a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
  • > "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

    Imaginary? Seriously? I guess there are two extreme wings for every opinion. You could probably argue reasonably well that the threats are "overblown" or "exaggerated". You'd have a hard time arguing that it's not important to secure our computer infrastructure. And you'd have an even worse time arguing that co
  • except that (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland@NOSpAm.yahoo.com> on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:59AM (#39858145) Homepage Journal

    1) million of attempts are made every month on US Government, and industrial systems.

    2)And we have had system compromised by foreign attempts frequently.

    3) It';s the military's role to protect against those threats

    None of that is speculation, none of the is fear mongering. Those are are facts.

    So, not it isn't the same as anarchist, of the red scare.

    And the war on drugs is a completely separate issue, stop bringing it up.

    Now, we can discuss where the line is, and discuss people using those facts to do things we don't want them to do, but don't pretend like they are made up threats.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Crime is a fact. These attacks are crime, just in a new area, but not even more intensive than other forms of crime.

      Repeating nonsense does not make it more true.

  • Funny how prescient he was about the Military-Industrial complex. Sad how he would be considered a wild-eyed liberal by the current version of his Republican party.
  • by losttoy ( 558557 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:27PM (#39859933)
    Everything, from serious works of Plato to satire like "Yes, Prime Minister" mention how fear mongering is used to prop up power.

    Bernard Shaw wrote "Of government, ‘that foolish gaggle shop’, he says: you will do what pays us. You will make war when it suits us, and keep peace when it doesn’t. You will find out that trade requires certain measures when we have decided on those measures. When I want anything to keep my dividends up, you will discover that my want is a national need. When other people want something to keep my dividends down, you will call out the police and military. And in return you shall have the support and applause of my newspapers, and the delight of imagining that you are a great statesman"

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus