Add cyber threat to list of reasons to be prepared

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Those who live in glass houses should throw no stones.

That's especially true if everything that keeps the "house" running depends on its integrity, and, if the owner is throwing the stones at someone who lives in a mud hut.

The United States is in that situation against Iran, which has been spending heavily to recruit hackers and buy technology to give it the capacity to play havoc with the Internet that we are growing more and more dependant on.

Two House Homeland Security subcommittees were to meet today to discuss the threat of Iran's nuclear program and the possibility Israel may stage a pre-emptive strike.

There is plenty of reason to be concerned. Worried that Iran was making too much progress in manufacturing nuclear fuel, someone -- Iran blames the United States and Israel -- infected the Persian computers controlling centrifuges with a virus that caused them to go haywire, ruining the machines and setting the program back for years.

Iran reportedly responded by investing $1 billion in their cyberwarfare capabilities, a serious threat to the United States.

Yes, Iran's on the far side of the world, but imagine what a major attack on the Internet could mean. Everything from banking and investing, to ordering a pizza, buying a pair of socks or a tank of gas with your ATM card or, yes, even delivering an electronic version of this newspaper could grind to a halt.

Not to mention computers that control everything from the nationwide power grid, to city water and sewer systems, landline and cellular telephone system, broadcasting -- the list goes on and on.

Disabling Internet services for even a matter of hours could strike a serious blow to the struggling economy of the United States -- a significant threat for a terror attack as the one-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden approaches.

And, even if the threat from Iran is contained, there's nothing keeping that country from handing off its capabilities to other countries or groups harder to target, with less to lose.

We trust the military is devoting a significant portion of its significant budget to cyber security, but the rest of us will be wise to take precautions -- the same we might in preparation for a storm -- such as backing up banking records and having emergency supplies on hand.

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