back to article Cyber-terror: How real is the threat? Squirrels are more of a danger

The UK Chancellor George Osborne last week announced that the British government plans to double cybersecurity spending and establish a single National Cyber Centre. Cybersecurity spending will rise to £1.9bn ($2.87bn) at a time of budget cuts to police and other government departments. More details are expected to come in the …

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      1. Richard Taylor 2
        Trollface

        I hope that critical national infrastructure is a little harder than that which would allow an internet based attack to cause major disruption. However, kill supply chains (to let's just say the five major supermarkets) and within a few days there would be trouble. And they well may be more vulnerable - after all security is just a cost is it not?

  1. LucreLout
    Paris Hilton

    Arf Arf Arf

    Anti-malware firm BitDefender last week implausibly warned that an “IS cyber-attack on the UK could cripple all forms of communication and infrastructure.”

    Well, yes it could. Just as I could go home from work early and find my wife in bed with Nicole Kidman. Or BitCoin could have been originated by one of The Orange County Is Essex cast. Or we could have a minister in charge of technology that actually understands technology. It's not looking likely though, is it?

    Paris, because she could be the next President of those United States.

    1. Richard Taylor 2

      Re: Arf Arf Arf

      Paris, because she could be the next President of those United States.

      There could be worse. Based on the current runners, GOP and Dems that is.

  2. James Pickett

    "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

    H. L. Mencken

  3. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Not just stuxnet

    Don't forget this one. Quite an expensive error.

    But otherwise, spot on. The latest knee-jerk Tory fuck-knuckle to confuse hollywood internet with real life once again demonstrates that it's better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, etc. It's up there with the old "paedophiles are using an area of the internet the size of Wales" line from Brass Eye. They never learn.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just stuxnet

      There's been at least one other cyberattack which has caused physical damage. Back in the 1980s, it was. The CIA managed to arrange for the USSR to steal some booby-trapped control software which blew up a gas pipeline.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1455559/CIA-plot-led-to-huge-blast-in-Siberian-gas-pipeline.html

      One might suspect that nation state cyberattackers have got a bit more devious in the decades since. Maybe - just maybe - there's a lot of covert cyber-nasty stuff already deployed and ready to be unleashed if the bosses decide.

      Me? I'm more worried about definite rather than hypothetical risks to our electrical and electronic infrastructure, like a really powerful solar storm hitting planet Earth:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859

  4. ChunkyMonkey
    Joke

    Oh my God. We are all Doomed!!!

    What happens if they start to radicalise the squirrels? I see only darkness.....

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Squirrel more dangerous than a cyber-terrorist?

    I bet he drinks Carling Black Label.

  6. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Personally, I think that George Osborne is far more dangerous than squirrels.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Puppets are more dangerous than squirrels? That is risible.

      Personally, I think that George Osborne is far more dangerous than squirrels. ... allthecoolnamesweretaken

      George does as he is told, not as he wishes, allthecoolshortnamesweretaken.

  7. tnaser

    People, let's lighten up on our poor misunderstood polititions. Where else could someone this clueless about ANYTHING get a good paying job?

    I know that I personally would never have hired one, as I needed people who could walk and chew gum at the same time.

    BTW, the gray squirrels are employed by the CIA to undermine the will of the British people.

  8. noj

    There is an old, I think Chinese, cliche: "A good sword is a terrible thing. It begs to be used."

    The US has so much military, political, economic, and technological power. These powers beg to be used.

    But because the US population isn't entirely stupid, something is needed to justify creating and maintaining that power. So the weapon doesn't just beg to be used, it HAS to be used.

    Look at the "war" on drugs, "war" on communism, "war" on terrorism, and now a "war" in cyberspace. How better to justify all that power than to find something, real or imagined, to use it on? And how better to continue justifying having that power using it than to pick an "enemy" that is so nebulous and difficult to define that the "war" never ends?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "But because the US population isn't entirely stupid"

      What's your evidence of that?

      1. FlamingDeath Silver badge

        ""But because the US population isn't entirely stupid"

        What's your evidence of that?"

        Can bigotry and xenophobia be attributed to stupidity?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You'd have to be

    ...in serious denial to not understand the problems we face from cyber crims and terrorists.

    This is the digital age and those countries who fail to update their laws and judicial systems will suffer badly. At the moment the UK is a hot haven for digital crims but that is about to (finally) change. No place in the world should be exempt from international law and the application of local laws when a cybercrime is committed. Terrorists are far smarter than the average sod and as such people die from terrorists attacks as we've witness again in recent weeks. These events and others could be prevented or mitigated in many instances by proper use of intelligence. Being politically correct now days can get you killed and it may. Denial isn't going to protect anyone from terrorism or cybercrime so people had better wake up now because it's only going to get worse. The crims have the upper hand and they will continue to attack the world - because they can.

    1. MonkeyCee

      Re: You'd have to be

      Utter bollocks AC.

      Either criminals or terrorists ARE such a massive threat, and the current moves are the right thing and all is good. Or it's a complete over-reaction to a foreseeable problem.

      I'm not sure how the UK is a haven for cyber-criminals over and above other ones. More details please, laws that protect them? That the UK is a hotbed of international tax evasion and money laundering, protected by laws from an empire that no longer exists (non-doms, the outer and inner tax islands) but I didn't think it was any more "cyber" in it's crime than most equivalent western european nations. Estonia, Russia, China, the Czech Republic all spring to mind as more obvious cyber crime locales where the money from ID theft, invoice fraud and CC scams end up.

      I agree cybercrime is bad. I've had UK family members who got hit by support scams who didn't get their money back (debit card) and dutch family members who've been falsely billed who got most back (taken direct from bank account, bank refunded as soon as fraud complaint was lodged) and the police really couldn't give a shit. IMHO it was to avoid having a crime that almost certainly wouldn't get solved on the books. The banks cover it, because the convenience outweighs the costs. The criminals know this, have studied the systems in place, and so can pick on a weak, rich target with little personal risk, little chance of being investigated, and it's a corporate rather than personal crime, so Jo Public never feels robbed, just some paperwork or a phonecall.

      No place should be free from international law, or from the international law of the USA? Pretty much everything emotive used to demand more laws to defend us is already illegal. The police can and should prevent people from setting off bombs, be it for political, personal or profit motive. We have the laws, we just need to enforce them.

      Now onto terrorists. Golly. You know they don't spring fully formed after you sow some dragons teeth right? Like pirates, they only happen because other things are really really shitty. But they do have a nasty habit of once formed, sticking around, changing their "business model" as such. So bombing and invading countries might just happen to result in more, rather than less terrorists. But causing terrorists doesn't matter when spreading democracy and hydrocarbon love. Only when we need more laws, more governmental powers, more taxes, bit less freedom, but for safety! And the flag! And children!

      Unless I live in a country that's an active war zone (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan) I'm more likely to be killed by a bee than a terrorist. In Syria, where Daesh is fielding a land army, I'm seven times more likely to killed by forces loyal to Assad than to Daesh. So even in their own territory, they are not the biggest threat to life. Halfway across the world, they are not an actual real threat. More than zero, for sure, but that's life for you.

      But as a species, we can be really shit at assessing risk, and can have a strong personal worldview that will bend observations into reinforcing that over and above reality. So we worry more about things that sound scary, and do happen (but rarely) like shooting sprees* by terrorists and shark attacks, and demand that we pay some more taxes so the government can solve it for us, but we don't worry about the things that do kill us (heart attacks, cars) because we would prefer to keep the rewards and accept the risk of lifestyle choices and faster cars. So politicians play to the popular vote (Daesh is scary!) and not realism (but Putin is scarier! And the Chinks keep nicking all our shit!) to justify what they want/need/instructed.

      TL&DR Bees are more deadly than terrorists. Assad is more deadly than Daesh. Humans are dumb in clever ways to suit themselves.

      *YMMV depending upon locale

  10. Kernel

    What's the money to be spent on?

    "I'd like to know exactly what the government plans to spend this money on."

    It should be obvious what the money is to be spent on - they have to buy a whole stack of those extra wide keyboards that two people can frantically bash away on at once in order to crack the $evil_person's password - and those keyboards don't come cheap!

    You obviously haven't been watching your quota of CSI or NCIS episodes and are therefor a dangerously independent thinker with little knowledge of how to investigate a computing problem - you are hereby sentenced to watch every episode of CSI Cyber - repeatedly - until such time as you know how 'real' cyber-sleuthing is done.

  11. ByeLaw101

    Oh no...

    I only read the headline "Cyber-terror: How real is the threat? Squirrels are more of a danger"

    ...we have squirrels at the bottom of my garden... I'm too scared to leave the house!

    Thanks a lot guys!!

  12. teebie

    "cyber-jihadists"

    Would you fuck off with this bullshit, George.

  13. Amorous Cowherder
    Facepalm

    Cyber....bollocks!

    We need more money. How can we secure it? Oh yes, put the prefix "cyber-" and instantly it becomes all techno and important.

    A right load of cyber-wank!

  14. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    One positive note: none of the mentally I'll aholes that currently fancy a bit of suicide/murder are capable of any advanced cyber attacking.

  15. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    "The UK Chancellor George Osborne last week announced that the British government plans to double cybersecurity spending and establish a single National Cyber Centre."

    When I read that it says "double cybersecurity spending"

    What it reads back in my head is, "double PSYOPS spending"

    Pro-tip: Some words I am playing close attention to in these strange times, and I suggest you do too:

    Hegelian Dialectic

    Machiavellianism

    Footnote:

    Terrorism, it's like the gift that keeps on giving...

    War is peace

    Freedom is slavery

    Ignorance is strength

  16. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    ....So, in summary, hackers have never been credited with taking down a power grid...

    Why should they worry, when the UK Department of Energy (now driven by climate change activists) is pretty close to taking down the UK power Grid all by itself...?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: taking down the UK power Grid

      "the UK Department of Energy (now driven by climate change activists) is pretty close to taking down the UK power Grid all by itself...?"

      Strange that. Lots of people had concluded that half-witted regulatory tactics combined with an overarching "leave it to the markets, the markets know best" approach to security of energy supply are what will put out the lights (and most other grid-dependent electric things) in the UK in the next couple of years.

      We came close to lights out at the start of November 2015 when the UK was becalmed for a couple of days, leaving the UK's wind input at around 0GW of the installed 10GWish of grid-connected wind, but somehow Gridco managed to blame the panic on an "unplanned" loss of maybe 400MW output at coal-fired Ferrybridge (which is now in full blown "don't spend any money on maintenance" mode because it's closing in 2016). Various other older fossil stations were also offline, according to some sources, and when the wind didn't blow there nearly wasn't enough electricity.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/11975069/Power-plant-breakdowns-force-National-Grid-to-issue-alert.html (4 Nov 2015)

      Heaven help us if we have another Sizewell/Longannet outage like the one in May 2008

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7423169.stm

      It likely won't involve Longannet though, as Longannet will also be closing in 2016.

      LED torches and Camping Gaz stoves, plus warm clothing. You know it makes sense. Well, more sense than current energy policy.

  17. Eugene Crosser

    A little more than a month passed, and ...

    --Cyber Attacks Allegedly Targeted Power Stations in Ukraine

    (January 1 & 4, 2016)

    A cyber attack last month in Ukraine caused a significant portion of the

    country's power grid to go offline. The SANS Industrial Control System

    (ICS) team has obtained a sample of the malware allegedly used in the

    attack.

    http://motherboard.vice.com/read/malware-found-inside-downed-ukrainian-power-plant-points-to-cyberattack

    -- SANS NewsBites Vol. 18 Num. 001

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