Potential for Attack on Internet Infrastructure

The conventional wisdom is that the resilient nature of Internet protocols makes it difficult or impossible for an attacker to take down or cripple the Internet. A couple of respected Washington Post columnists have some doubts about the conventional wisdom. I think they have a point.

David Ignatius advises:

America’s botched response to the coronavirus pandemic is a warning that, unless our broken political and administrative systems are fixed, the country could experience a similar breakdown in future national crises, such as a massive cyberattack.

This stark message was contained in a little-noticed white paper recently released by the bipartisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission, titled “Cybersecurity Lessons From the Pandemic.” As the paper highlighted, the covid-19 outbreak has been a stress test for our national crisis-management system — and that system has, to a frightening extent, failed. The challenges of a cyberattack would be even greater. …

Part of the problem with our covid-19 response is specific to Trump, who seems to view unpredictability and lack of planning as positive management tools. But another president, with better management skills, would still face bureaucratic blockages that are endemic to our system. White House coordinators similar to the proposed cyber director — the U.S Trade Representative, say, or the Office of Science and Technology Policy — struggle in any administration to frame coherent government-wide policy, as noted in a recent Lawfare essay by Mieke Eoyang and Anisha Hindocha.

Economics columnist Robert J. Samuelson thinks Big Tech’s  privacy/monopoly/abuse of power issues are small potatoes next to the threat of a crippling cyberattack:

The consequences of a massive cyberattack could make the disruptions caused by the pandemic seem like child’s play. There might be simultaneous assaults on the nation’s power, communication, financial and transportation networks. People would stumble about in a cyber fog with public and private communications channels, from email to cable TV, disabled or overwhelmed.

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