Cyber Storm War Games
Cyber Storm to Hit America for a Second Time
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The AP described it as a really bad day, but that somewhat understates the magnitude of it all. It, of course, refers to the “Cyber Storm” war game that the US Government held early in 2006, in an attempt to gauge the necessary reaction and requisite skills of the games participants.
If anyone has seen the 1983 movie War Games starring a very young Matthew Broderick, then multiply that by 10 and you’ll begin to get close to just what it was the US Government sicked on to the willing participants. The Homeland Security Department ran the exercise to test the nation’s hacker defenses, with help from the State Department, Pentagon, Justice Department, CIA, National Security Agency and others.
Those others, included government officials from the United States, England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and executives from leading technology and transportation companies.
The simulated attacks consisted of everything imaginable: Washington’s metro trains being shut down. New York’s seaport computers going dark. Bloggers revealing the locations of secret railcars containing hazardous materials (it’s always the bloggers!). Airport control towers disrupted at Philadelphia and Chicago. A mysterious liquid found on London’s subway. Planes flying too close to the White House, and more.
In short, the test was to throw everything at the players to see what they could handle, in an attempt to simulate as much public panic as possible. “They point out where your expectations of your capabilities may be overstated,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the AP. “They may reveal to you things you haven’t thought about. It’s a good way of testing that you’re going to do the job the way you think you were. It’s the difference between doing drills and doing a scrimmage.”
“We want to stress these players,” said Jeffrey Wright, the former Cyber Storm director for the Homeland Security Department. “None of the players took 100 percent of the correct, right actions. If they had, we wouldn’t have done our job as planners.”
And the results aren’t overly encouraging to be honest. No one took home the 100% as mentioned, and companies and governments were said to have worked successfully only “in some cases.” But key players didn’t understand the role of the premier U.S. organization responsible for fending off major cyber attacks, called the National Cyber Response Coordination Group, and it didn’t have enough technical experts. Also, the sheer number of mock attacks complicated defensive efforts.
One last thing though, in proof that a geek’s ego is much bigger than anyone else you’ve ever met; the geek’s struck back! Or tried too at least. Apparently, according to the 328 heavily censored pages that were turned over to the AP, somebody or someone’s attacked the computers that was being used to conduct the exercise.
“Any time you get a group of (information technology) experts together, there’s always a desire, ‘Let’s show them what we can do,’” said George Foresman, a former senior Homeland Security official who oversaw Cyber Storm. “Whether its intent was embarrassment or a prank, we had to temper the enthusiasm of the players.”
A Geek’s-Geek from Melbourne, Australia, Josh is an aspiring author with dreams of publishing his epic fantasy, currently in the works, sometime in the next 5 years. A techie, nerd, sci-fi nut and bookworm.