In the 2008 Annual Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community for the Senate Armed Services Committee for the first time the threat of cyber attacks were addressed. (This is the first time the report available to the public).
The intelligence community listed "the vulnerabilities of the US information infrastructure to increasing cyber attacks by foreign governments, nonstate actors and criminal elements" as the fourth major bullet of the fourth page of the opening in the forty-five page report. The report goes on to state that due to the significance of computer and telecommunications to our country's security defense and economy, threats to our IT infrastructure are an important focus of the Intelligence Community. Also stated were the trends seen over the past year, which included cyber exploitation activity that grew more sophisticated, more targeted, and more serious. Finally, DNI stated that the Intelligence Community expects these trends to continue in the coming year.
Most concerning was the following statement excerpted from the report.
"We assess that nations, including Russia and China, have the technical capabilities to target and disrupt elements of the US information infrastructure and for intelligence collection." Nation states and criminals target our government and private sector information networks to gain competitive advantage in the commercial sector. The report went on to state that terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, HAMAS, and Hezbollah have expressed the desire to use cyber means to target the United States.
The information contained in the report represents the cumulative views of highly skilled professionals working on this critical issue. All the warning signs are there.
You may not have caught this but, the Intelligence Operations Center of Spy-Ops reported on June 18th the Palestinian Islamist movement, Islamic Jihad, said it has a new division of its armed Al-Quds Brigades: a cyber war unit that claims it has hacked into the websites of several Israeli media outlets. I am not sure how I missed it but when did terrorist organizations start making press releases?
It seems like everyone is beginning to get into the cyber war capabilities. This now included cyber arms dealers and organizations that lease attack capacity on their BotNets. Not to be left out, criminal elements continue to show growing sophistication in technical capability and targeting, and today operate a pervasive, mature, online service economy in illicit cyber capabilities and services available to anyone willing to pay. Cyber weapons can be purchased for as little as $300 and some have been reported to sell for $50,000.