When the Data Cannot Be Trusted
December 22, 2015
A post at Foreign Policy, “Cyber Spying Is Out, Cyber Lying Is In,” reveals that it may be more important now than ever before to check the source, facts, and provenance of digital information. Unfortunately, search and content processing systems do not do a great job of separating baloney from prime rib.
Journalist Elias Groll tells us that the experts are concerned about hacking’s new approach:
“In public appearances and congressional testimony in recent months, America’s top intelligence officials have repeatedly warned of what they describe as the next great threat in cyberspace: hackers not just stealing data but altering it, threatening military operations, key infrastructure, and broad swaths of corporate America. It’s the kind of attack they say would be difficult to detect and capable of seriously damaging public trust in the most basic aspects of both military systems and a broader economy in which tens of millions of people conduct financial and health-related transactions online….
“Drones could beam back images of an empty battlefield that is actually full of enemy fighters. Assembly robots could put together cars using dimensions that have been subtly altered, ruining the vehicles. Government personnel records could be modified by a foreign intelligence service to cast suspicion on a skilled operative.”
Though such attacks have not yet become commonplace, there are several examples to cite. Groll first points to the Stuxnet worm, which fooled Iranian engineers into thinking their centrifuges were a-okay when it had actually sabotaged them into over-pressurizing. (That was a little joint project by the U.S. and Israel.) See the article for more examples, real and hypothesized. Not all experts agree that this is a growing threat, but I, for one, am glad our intelligence agencies are treating it like one.
Cynthia Murrell, December 22, 2015