- Published on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 14:42
- Written by Andrew Snyder, Editorial Director, Inside Investing Daily
- Hits: 1071
There is a cyberwar brewing. Some folks say it has already started. No matter the timing, there's big money to be made.
Have you heard of Shamoon? I bet not.
It's not a high-jumping killer whale. And it's not the latest infomercial wonder towel that will wash, wax and dry your car... in one painless step.
No, it's far more sinister. Yet the mainstream media refuse to talk about it.
Shamoon is the computer virus that recently slammed the Saudi state oil company Aramco and Qatar's RasGas. It destroyed 30,000 computers. It was an incredible attack -- one of the largest in history -- yet few folks have any idea what is going on behind their computer screen.
One person who knows what is happening and what is at risk is Leon Panetta. The defense secretary warns of a potential "cyber-Pearl Harbor" brewing among our enemies. "A cyberattack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremist groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack on 9/11," he said last week.
The Pentagon's focus is on Iran. Because international sanctions have a chokehold on the nation's economy, the starving country is forced to take its fight to the borderless realm of the cyberworld.
Iran's electronic "soldiers" have been busy. If you do any online banking, you are likely a victim.
Earlier this month, Wall Street's leading banks were slammed by an invisible attack. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, SunTrust, Capital One and Regions Financial were all victims of what's called a distributed denial-of-service attack.
It's one of the simplest forms of cyberwarfare -- the digital equivalent of a hand grenade -- yet it managed to lock millions of customers out of their accounts. They couldn't move their money -- or even see what they had -- until the attack subsided.
Anonymous sources in Washington point their fingers at fewer than 100 Iranian information security specialists. All it takes is one man and a keyboard.
"They have been going after everyone -- financial services, Wall Street," said one high-brass defense official. "Is there a cyberwar going on? It depends on how you define 'war.'"
According to Panetta, there's reason to worry.
"While this kind of tactic isn't new, the scale and speed with which it happened was unprecedented," he said. "Imagine the impact an attack like this would have on your company."
The smart folks aren't trying to envision the theoretical pain. They are working to identify the target of the next attack.
Is it the power grid? Retaliation for the digital bug we used to trash Iran's nuclear computers?
Or will they go after our communications system? No more texts and mobile tweets...
Or will it be an attack on a grand scale... a Web-wide lockup?
I don't know.
My guess is we'll see all of the above over the next decade. The folks I talk to agree with me. I do know there is there is a strong profit opportunity in all this. Anytime America goes to war... somebody gets rich.
So here's what I want you to watch. Sen. Joe Lieberman recently worked to push legislation through Congress that would force privately owned entities like banks, power providers and chemical plants to bolster their cybershields.
The business world shuddered at the idea. It's expensive, and it hacks away at corporate freedom (isn't the erosion of our freedom the end result of all recent wars?). It lobbied hard to kill the bill. In the last congressional session before the election, the Senate failed to pass even a watered-down version of Lieberman's proposal.
But things have changed.
The next session of Congress will be filled with a bunch of lame ducks, and they're going to use the oldest trick in the legislative book... urgency.
"The sense of urgency is heightened, I believe the comments by [Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey] have said that we have a compelling need," Sen. Barbara Mikulski said yesterday. "I think we'll find a way if we get the will, and we're developing the will because of the great sense of urgency."
What's that line about never letting a good crisis go to waste?
Keep your eye on the Cyber Security Act of 2012. Senate boss Harry Reid told us on Saturday that he will bring the bill to the floor in November. My money says it passes with little fanfare. When it does, a great opportunity will arise.
Few folks are talking about it, but the minimum cybersecurity standards the bill will put in place mean big profits for a handful of American businesses. We will take a look at the various moneymaking opportunities as the key vote moves closer.
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