The Cool (Cyber) War is over a decade old and we have lost the plot

I found Toby Harnden‘s article in the Sunday Times “Goodbye, Cold War, welcome to the Cool War” as annoying as it was illuminating. Those without a subscription to the Times can find a full text on “Real Clear Politics”. “Cool War”, as described a week earlier in the Guardian  may be a good way of describing what has been gathering pace for over the past decade, beginning when retired cold war spooks discovered on-line crime as way of supplementing their pensions and “patriotic” hackers learned that offering their services to the military was a good way of getting immunity for their other activities. Misha Glenny alludes to this symbiotic relationship in his excellent book: Dark Market. But as Matt Warman’s review suggests, he leaves out much of the underlying reality.

Similarly, the Sunday Times article merely alludes to reality. It is better seen as reflecting the lobbying positions of major defence contractors whose customers’ budgets are under serious threat as their nations’ economies and tax revenues implode. That, in turn, helps explain why and how the West is losing the Cool War and also why the creation of a “Geneva Convention” is so necessary if the nations of the world (both West and East) are not to be as stitched up by their respective military establishments as they were during the Cold War.

In the article Toby Harnden says: “The Pentagon has just announced that it will be quintupling its cyberwarfare workforce from 900 to about 4,500”. If the figures include those engaged in “defence” then a single major US bank already employs more than the Pentagon plans to recruit, defending its systems and data against those seeking to loot its funds and those of its customers, over the Internet. At least one UK-based bank is in the same league. Most major banks (e.g. the UK big four and the main French, German and Swiss banks) employ over a thousand, in various roles and with various titles, addressing the same objective. 

The number might just make sense if it referred only to an expansion of the US Cyber Command , which co-ordinates disparate units spread across the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. However, the 67th “Network Warfare” Wing of the Air Force, on its own, has over 8,000 personnel. Even the relevant Marines unit has over 800 personnel. Perhaps the number refers only to the Army’s new Cyberwarfare Unit , the 708th Military Intelligence Brigade. If so, it is most definitely a disingenuous reflection of the overall US investment in pro-active Cyberwarfare (from before Stuxnet and onwards) let alone in defence.

Meanwhile, those who have been in the frontline of the “Cool War” for over a decade, the on-line gaming and gambling operations, against whom the cyberwarriors of all nations practice, and the on-line banking, payment and retailing operations, which are being milked by to help top up their budgets and to fund their “allies” in organised crime, are left out in the cold.

Back in November I suggested that electronic Cyberwarfare is over 150 years old . It was subsequently pointed out that I referred to an earlier fraud case involving the Chappe semaphore network . It was therefore suggested that I should have compared Cochrane’s interception and monitoring of the network along the south coast of France in 1808 – with the way the Russians took out the Georgian Internet, both military and civil, to cripple any serious attempt at defence in 2008.      

The article on the Cool war, illustrate the need to improve understanding of what is “really” happening and take also rapid and effective action to secure an adequate supply of the skills needed.

This morning I received confirmation of support from e-Skills for a series of events, beginning on 8th April, to identify employers who are serious about working together to help ensure that their needs are met by programmes like: Cyber security in Key Stage 4 and 5 for schools, Cyber Security Learning Pathways and the National Cyber Security Training Partnership. I apologise that some of these links are not very informative. I am jumping the gun on the public announcements.

By “serious”  I mean employers who are willing to take a lead on working with schools, colleges and universities to help educate suitable recruits and/or to offer FE or HE level apprenticeships, cross-training and continuous professional opportunities to their existing staff. Please e-mail me direct or c/o Digital Policy Alliance or e-Skills with a note of your objectives and plans if you would like an invitation for yourself or a colleague.


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