NATO cybersecurity is worse than it looked; a lot worse

Fake Facebook pages targeting NATO top general are tip of a very insecure iceberg

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Its tendency to rely on Facebook's ability to sniff out fake-seeming pages and delete them, rather than police social networks itself, doesn't make me any more optimistic about the likelihood that NATO will become really effective at defending against an actual cyberattack, rather than a social-engineered spoof.

The issue, as with the U.S. military, isn't the skill of the security experts involved or the sophistication of the attacks.

It's the attitude of commanders who say cyberspace is the new battlespace, but who think of information warfare as something for spies and geeks, not for real warriors who don't think anything is dangerous that doesn't explode.

It's the tendency of military organizations to overprepare for dangers they've already experienced and not take new dangers seriously.

It's the training and groupthink that leaves (mostly U.S.) commanders who talk about cyberspace as the new battlespace sounding like they're talking about the plot of the original Tron rather than opponents whose offensive skills are so well developed you can't keep them from penetrating your networks even when you've known for years they spend more time on your servers than you do.

It's the orderly, organized, mayhem-controlled though process that allows military people to be prepared for the brutal chaos of real war.

Rigid process orientation is a handicap when facing enemies who arrive with no notice and no support, who attack targets the military has never needed to protect much in ways that don't seem that dangerous to officers who have learned to judge danger by the ratio of metal to air in the atmosphere, not the length of the key in an encryption scheme.

I admit it's entirely possible I'm jumping to conclusions about NATO, though both NATO and my conclusions about it are modeled on the U.S. military.

It's more likely that NATO will continue to be vulnerable to what the Chinese are turning into a dominance of cyberspace almost as complete as the British dominance of naval power during the growth of its Empire in the 19 th century.

It's likely that the safest place NATO can keep its secrets, even when they're protected by a military rapid-response team, will be somewhere – anywhere – other than NATO.

Photo Credit: 

Reuters/Francois Lenois

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