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White House Issues Warning Of Cyber Attack Threats By Iran, North Korea, China, And Russia

July 27, 2016

On July 26th, the White House provided new standard operating procedures on how government agencies should respond to major cyber attacks with the key players being Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia.   This announcement from the Obama administration comes just after emails from the Democratic National Committee were leaked and given to Wikileaks by suspected Russian hackers in an attempt to influence the U.S. presidential election on November 8th.  Hackers from Iran and North Korea have been launching a spate of cyber-attacks on the U.S. to gain top secret intelligence with both regimes posing an “increasingly diverse and dangerous” threat to global security.  

White House counterterrorism advisor Lisa Monaco said that the Iran regime and North Korea have shown they have the capability to carry out “destructive attacks” on “critical” infrastructure in the U.S., which would include nuclear power stations, transportation, defense systems, power grids, and hydro-electric stations to name a few.  The attacks on the aforementioned alone would cause major havoc within the continental United States.   Ms. Monaco said, 

To put it bluntly, we are in the midst of a revolution of the cyber threat – one that is growing more persistent, more diverse, more frequent and more dangerous every day.”  

Citing North Korea and the Iranian regime as increasingly dangerous cyber operators, she threatened the use of “targeted” sanctions against “malicious” hackers targeting the US.  But stressed that sanctions will only be used against aggressors “when the time is right“.  

The White House on Tuesday issued the U.S. government’s first emergency response manual for a major cyber-attack despite the Obama administration not yet appointing someone to the position of federal cyber chief (position has been open since February 2016).  Instead, the Obama administration published a “presidential policy directive” that includes a tiered grading system that defines a significant cyber incident as one to likely harm national security, economic interests, foreign relations, public confidence, health safety, and/or civil liberties (earlier this year, Iranian hackers were accused of infiltrating the computerized controls of a small dam 25 miles north of New York City).  

The magnitude of a massive cyber attack by Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia (if coordinated and done simultaneously) could very well cripple a majority of the infrastructure in the United States leaving us extremely vulnerable with the effect being far-reaching on a global level.   Given the recent publication of new guidelines for dealing with cyber attacks, what is the probability the United States will see another cyber attack by one of the four countries (or all of them) and what’s the best course of action to take?  Sound off in the comments below.