“Who do I call?” when the cyberalarm goes off

click to enlargeA top read for the weekend is this short article by Gillian Tett in the FT on the lack of coordination in the US in not only protecting systems from cyberattack, but also the lack of coordination between public and private sectors in protection–and when something does go wrong. As Henry Kissinger famously said about Europe when various crises loomed, ‘who do I call?’

Indicators of a gathering storm are everywhere:

* Wednesday’s hours-long, still unexplained outages at the NYSE and United Airlines. (The Wall Street Journal website going down for a bit was the topping on the jitters)

* A joint report from Cambridge University and Lloyds insurance group, also released Wednesday, estimated that a hack shutting down the US electrical grid would create $1 trillion in damage.

* Nearly simultaneously, James Comey, FBI Director, testified to Congress that it is struggling to crack encryption tools used by jihadis. According to the FT, two months ago he said that Islamic terrorists were “waking up” to the idea of malware attacks on critical infrastructure.

* Today, the total exposure in the Federal Office of Personnel Management hack rose to 21.5 million, going back 15 years to anyone who had a government background check (NY Times). A separate hack exposed records of 4.1 million government employees. Both have confirmed origins in China, itself with a bad case of the jits in their stock market.

The vulnerability of healthcare is also mentioned with the Anthem insurance breach of 80 million insured.

It’s not a lack of money with the Feds tossing in $14bn but it’s hard to expect private-public collaboration when Federal and state agencies don’t even speak. Perhaps a major ‘Pearl Harbor’ crisis is needed to focus everyone’s concentration wonderfully. And of course if the US sneezes, the UK and Europe will catch the same cold.

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