At this very moment, there are world powers that hold the capability to end 90 percent of the United States population without the use of direct force. Instead of automatic weapons and nuclear bombs, the tactics of choice include phishing, ransomware, malware, watering hole attacks, and numerous other developed techniques that derive from the space of online warfare. Cyber Terrorism is this countries greatest threat to liberty, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness. In the last 2 years alone the United States has been teased by attacks from foreign adversaries targeting core pillars in American infrastructure. The examples highlighted in this op-ed are what seemed to be the most alarming cases of cyber terrorism directed towards the United States.
CPI DARPA 2020; One of the U.S.'s major electronics manufacturer for the military defense and communications markets is the Communication & Power Industries based in California. The company provides products like radars, missile seekers, and electronic warfare technology. A ransomware attack from an unknown entity shut down the online communications system, thwarting production of operations. After paying a ransom of up to $500,000, The company was still not fully operational due to the mass affect the ransomware had internally to CPIs system. Mind you, this is a military institution with customers like DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, whose internal documents were obtained and leveraged throughout the entire ransom process. The consequences could have been grave if not for the sedentary behavior of the hackers.
FACEBOOK 2019; 5553 million. That's the amount of individuals on Facebook that had their personal information breached and obtained by an unknown user of a low-level internet hacking forum. Individuals from all over the world had their names, phone numbers, locations, and email addresses published on that forum. Not much is needed to be said in regards to the volatile ramifications that could have or may have already arose from this situation. Peoples lives are doxed (documented) which puts them at a much higher risk for troubling encounters.
FBI 2019; In the same year as the Facebook debacle, a nonprofit organization associated with the Department of Defense and the FBI confirmed a breach in their web servers that contained personal information of more than 20,000 federal officials and law enforcement. Not only did this information contain phone numbers and emails, they also contained direct addresses to these individuals homes. Over 1,000 emails belonging to the FBI.gov domain were compromised, along with documents from other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. There were also several documents containing what the hackers believed to be information on "people being watched by the FBI". This attack used a particularly unique malware code described by experts to have shown no signs of any previously known online actors.
CNA Financial 2021; In March of 2021 CNA Financial was attacked with the Pheonix Locker Ransomware which is said to be a newly developed form of ransomware from a Russian based cybercrime conglomerate "Evil Corp". The cyber criminals were able to access member information include names and social security numbers. After a two week deliberation with federal authorities, the Chicago-based insurance company paid what is considered to be one of the most outlandish payouts for their information retrieval in the amount of $40 million dollars.
Colonial Pipeline 2021; In May of 2021 the Colonial Pipeline, which is responsible for carrying gasoline and jet fuel across the South Eastern and North Eastern parts of the United States was attacked by ransomware that impacted the internal equipment that managed the pipeline. The company was forced to halt all operations in order to hopefully contain the attack. This in return sparked mass hysteria regarding fuel and the accessibility of it at the time. Colonial Pipeline would pay a ransom of 75 Bitcoin. The equivalent of $4.4 million dollars. 17 states were put on an emergency declaration by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in order to keep fuel supply lines open. It was the largest attack on the United States oil infrastructure.
JBS 2021; Most recently one of the worlds largest beef suppliers was attacked with ransomware threatening the U.S. and several other countries meat supply. This came just four weeks after the hiccup with the Colonial Pipeline. JBS was force to stop production, and take their communication systems off line stopping all work in North America. Not only did this attack affect the JBS production system, its malicious reach stretched to the agricultural end of the spectrum as well. The live stock market trembled as farmers were running out of room for their animals and having to euthanize their livestock, especially pigs and chickens. The attack is believed to have been carried out by an unidentified Russian based group. The resolution to this attack has been and is still unclear.
Every single on of these events was a precursor to the next. The most recent attacks signal something greater in the horizon. If the Black Hats can shut down our fuel and then our produce supply, the sky is the limit for the next Anon to create their version of digital anarchy. The United States government has shown a clear inability to prevent events like these from happening again. In fact, each incident that occurs seems to be worse than the one before it. Our next world war will not consist of boots on the ground, and military theaters. No, the coming war will take place in the digital realm. From ransomware to misinformation, cybersecurity should be this county's number one priority. If it is not, then we all might as well pick our grave stones sooner than we'd like to think.