Global Post, By Noga Tarnopolski
TEL AVIV, Israel — In the few quiet days separating the Petraeus scandal from the explosion of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, a gaggle of geeks with an interest in both events gathered in Tel Aviv at a conference called HLS2012.
The subject: cyber-security. Or, in other words, monsters in the night. There they were, in their tweed jackets and sturdy-framed glasses, talking about what no one wants to talk about.
“The next war will use digital elements — but will not be a digital war,” said Dr. Nimrod Kozlovski, a consultant on law and information technology and information security, with eerie prescience.
In fact, much of the discussion in conference corridors puts in chilling perspective the cyber chatter that broke out at the start of the current Israel-Gaza conflict.
It made the news that Israel announced its Gaza operation over Twitter — and the Al Qassem brigades replied, through missiles and mocking cybernetic missives. The Anonymous hacker collective played its usual part, attacking various websites in support of the Palestinians.
But all this is practically cute to those who attended the conference.
What would a real digital war look like?
Like the most terrifying sci-fi movie you’ve ever seen. The collapse of international banking systems. Pilots desperately pushing buttons as their planes fall from of the sky. Blood types rearranging in hospital blood banks.
Among this crowd, 9/11 is old news, old tech. Why train terrorist pilots if you can quite simply reprogram an aircraft?
“You have to take into account that any cyber attack can be a precursor to a traditional attack” Tom Ridge, the former US Secretary of Homeland Security, told GlobalPost at the conference. “Just think of the ubiquity of the internet. It is the backbone of your world, of commerce, of defense. We’ve put everything on digital platforms.”
Ridge says terror and cyber-warfare are the two greatest challenges facing the Western world. “Cyber is so potentially disruptive that it may prove even more serious than terror,” he said.
The governments of Israel and the United States deflect thousands of attacks daily, millions a year. And the internet is so porous, Ridge emphasizes, that “you have to operate as if the attacker is already within your system.”
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