Who among us doesn’t believe all the insidious mischief makers of the world watched the mammoth merchant ship stuck in the Sinai Canal with wicked glee? When 3.8 billion dollars per day were lost due to this fiasco, what adversary didn’t begin calculating the windfall destruction he could wreak on his foes? Who can’t imagine, for instance, that our adversaries delighted in our national turmoil when an American oil pipeline was disabled by hackers? What we know is that these hackers are harbored in Russia. What we suspect is the Russian government employs them in an aberrant form of clandestine national policy. We who hold clearances do so because we are developing means of keeping our nation secure. There are a host of reasons we should anticipate further actions similar to these just described. This is not a history lesson. It is being studied today, for possible employment tomorrow.

How Secure Are You?

We’ve long suspected that our adversaries are national level foes, with media techniques second to none.  Yet, studies have shown that whole corporate, national, and personal websites have been brought low by simple methods we all know, and should have been able to protect against. For example, an entity known as the Syrian Electronic Army, which apparently supports the current Syrian regime, used nothing more than spear-fishing and clever guessing of common passwords to access Associated Press links, and with those, credentials. A fake story posted with these, of explosions at the White House and the wounding of the President, remained online for only three minutes. In the mere three minutes news agencies took to discount this fraud, the stock market dropped billions in equity. Simple technique, massive loss. Or consider how a faked statement in support of Iran, alleged to have been said by a prominent Qatari official, was posted on purported Qatari News Agency links. False. But the hour it took to discover and correct this, sufficient anger was generated to cause a rift between Qatar and its Arab neighbors. Seems this disinformation was sufficient to play into a planned scheme to isolate Qatar.

Vulnerabilities Exposed

Be aware that these stories all tell us that we are vulnerable. We are more vulnerable now than yesterday because private companies are selling more and more offensive software around the world. Our own government is reaching out to the best practices of the private world to defend our own interests. Small countries are defending themselves against this threat, too, because they are the easier targets. It is not for nothing that the largest conference on this subject occurred in Estonia, itself a victim of Russian government cyber attack.

We who are defending our own areas of classified work must know and cooperate with our cyber defense officials. Consider what services exist to keep your company safe, and follow these. Ensure these methods are briefed, and account for all those who receive such briefings. Contact your government contracting official who can link you to proper advisors from the government for cyber specialist assistance. After all, it is our country we are defending. That is why they are there. The good news is that our government has begun major efforts to make our defenses stronger. We are being helped by the development of previously unexplored efforts by trained teams of experts. Know they exist. Seek them out. It is for all of our benefit.



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John William Davis was commissioned an artillery officer and served as a counterintelligence officer and linguist. Thereafter he was counterintelligence officer for Space and Missile Defense Command, instructing the threat portion of the Department of the Army's Operations Security Course. Upon retirement, he wrote of his experiences in Rainy Street Stories.