The U.S. Still Leads the World in Cyber Capabilities.

By Clinton Pownall
 President & CEO
 Computer Business

The U.S. Still Leads the World in Cyber Capabilities. That’s the good news from a recently released 182-page report by British think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies that reviews the cyber capabilities (government and private sector) of the world’s biggest players in hacking and digital defense. The report cautions that China is racing toward parity, and notes that the U.S. is more constrained in flexing its cyber powers, saying: “The ways in which the US wields its cyber power appear politically and legally constrained when compared with its main cyber adversaries—Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. The US has sought to be a responsible offensive cyber actor, governed by international law and at pains to limit potential collateral damage. … These factors have combined to give the adversaries of the US an edge in the use of unsophisticated cyber techniques that are aimed at subversion but pitched below the legal threshold for an act of aggression that might justify an armed response.”

Acting Director of U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Warns about Future. In a recent interview with CNN, Brandon Wales, the current acting director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, pointed to the Colonial Pipeline and JBS ransomware attacks and said they are just a sign of worse events that could potentially harm the U.S. “Both of those incidents highlight the actual real-world consequences of cyber incidents, targeting our critical infrastructure. And while today those attacks have impacted Americans at the gas pump and at the supermarkets, our concern is where could this go next,” Wales said. “I think our concern is that more targeting of the industrial control systems, those things that actually enable critical infrastructure to operate—whether in water systems or power systems, the manufacturing base of the country—those are targets, and unless we take urgent action, we are really concerned about the disruptive effects that this could have on the American people.” Providing a chilling view into a possible future, Wales said: “You can just imagine, you get up in the morning and you try to turn on your lights and they don’t come on, you try to brush your teeth, and the water is not there, or it’s not clean. You try to log on to check your email and it’s not working, you can’t execute a financial transaction, because critical infrastructure in this country has been compromised in some way by a cyber incident.”

Cyber Attacks Could be Worse than Hurricanes. That’s one of the findings of a report released from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The report looks at the economic impacts major hurricanes have caused to the economy, and suggests, “Disruptive cyber incidents can cause similar short- and long-term damage. In fact, cyber incidents can exact an even greater economic cost than extreme weather events, because the bulk of the economic losses from weather events are from property damage.” In contrast, the report notes that cyberattacks can take a huge toll on intangibles ranging from loss of business to loss of intellectual property.” The report concludes: “Cyber vulnerabilities pose a systemic risk to the U.S. economy. Through the right mix of policy and standard-setting, the U.S. government can help create a market with more informed risk-taking and more resilient companies. … The ultimate goal is to incentivize enterprise cyber resilience and, by extension, create greater national resilience against all forms of cyber threats.”

“US Secret Service Releases ‘Most Wanted’ Cyber Fugitive List.” Bank Info Security carries that headline about a Top 10 most wanted list for cybercrimes. The list includes two Ukrainian men with a $1 million bounty on their heads for targeting the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission’s Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system. Most of those on the wanted list appear to have been operating from outside the U.S., which could make them harder to apprehend. The article notes: “The publishing of the Most Wanted Fugitive list, which is similar to the FBI’s Most Wanted List, comes as the Secret Service has been increasingly involved in pursuing and investigating cyber-related financial crimes. In July 2020, the agency announced its Cyber Fraud Task Force, which combined agents and resources from the Electronic Crimes Task Forces and Financial Crimes Task Forces.”

Clinton A. Pownall is the President & CEO of Computer Business Consultants and has been in the IT field since 1990. Pownall served in the U.S. Navy for six years as a Weapons Systems Technician and has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering. Through Computer Business, he was one of the first to pioneer VoIP technology using satellite communications. He is a member of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, and advises law enforcement agencies on cybersecurity. Pownall serves on several boards and committees and has a strong affiliation with various arts and education groups, local school districts, and served in regional efforts of the Bill & Melinda Gates NextGen Foundation. He’s served as a Vice President of the Board of Director for the Orlando Shakes Theater and is actively involved in the South Lake Chamber of Commerce, West Orange Chamber of Commerce, and the Orlando Economic Partnership.