Cyber attacks and unintended consequences

I’m putting this in the new category “inevitable surprises” because I think it’s talked about but not appreciated or prepared for. We depend on the internet for everything now–big change in a very short time. And the bad guys know it. I’m glad the US government is starting to get prepared–hope they do enough.

Here’s in interesting story about a knew kind of “friendly fire” consequences–when you go after your enemies you can hurt a lot of spectators.

U.S. Weighs Risks of Civilian Harm in Cyberwarfare

It would have been the most far-reaching case of computer sabotage in history. In 2003, the Pentagon and American intelligence agencies made plans for a cyberattack to freeze billions of dollars in the bank accounts of Saddam Hussein and cripple his government’s financial system before the United States invaded Iraq. He would have no money for war supplies. No money to pay troops.

“We knew we could pull it off — we had the tools,” said one senior official who worked at the Pentagon when the highly classified plan was developed.

But the attack never got the green light. Bush administration officials worried that the effects would not be limited to Iraq but would instead create worldwide financial havoc, spreading across the Middle East to Europe and perhaps to the United States.   (…)

Mark Seiden, a Silicon Valley computer security specialist who was a co-author of the National Research Council report, said, “The chances are very high that you will inevitably hit civilian targets — the worst-case scenario is taking out a hospital which is sharing a network with some other agency.”

And while such attacks are unlikely to leave smoking craters, electronic attacks on communications networks and data centers could have broader, life-threatening consequences where power grids and critical infrastructure like water treatment plants are increasingly controlled by computer networks. (…)

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