What is the Government Doing to Keep Users Safe Online? - CIA Conducts Three Days of Electronic War Games
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Sometimes it’s hard not to envy the Associated Press, especially when the news organization is the first to report something this cool. The Central Intelligence Agency conducted a three-day exercise that simulated an electronic assault on the U.S. Dubbed “Silent Horizon,” the war games were set up to discover how well government and industry would be able to handle increasing Internet disruptions over a period of months.
The scenario, set five years in the future, featured a fictional alliance of anti-American organizations armed with hackers. It took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, and was run by the CIA’s Information Operations Center. At the time of this writing, results were not available – indeed, full details of the games themselves were not disclosed to the press, nor was it known how much more would be revealed. Given that the Internet was the offspring of a DARPA project aimed at creating a communications network that would survive an attack, I for one would be very interested to see the results of the exercise.
But there’s another reason for analysts to take a closer look at “Silent Horizon.” U.S. counterterrorism experts have given assurances that such a scenario is highly unlikely. Indeed, the government is much more worried about terrorists using explosions, radiation, and biological threats. There is some concern that terrorists might engage in a hybrid or “swarming” attack, in which they combine a physical attack, such as a bombing, with attacks by hackers to thwart rescue efforts.
Does this mean that the U.S. government’s counterterrorism experts lied in order to assuage the fears of the public? Not at all. Dorothy Denning of the Naval Postgraduate School, an expert on Internet threats quoted by the Associated Press, shed some light on the matter. “One of the things the intelligence community was accused of was a lack of imagination. You want to think about not just what you think may affect you but about scenarios that might seem unlikely.”
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