Beware the Cyber War Boomerang?

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Problem: Other Nations Likely Modifying Stuxnet For Different Attacks

The Stuxnet worm did not harm the other computers, because it was designed only to attack a network running a certain software program connected to specific kind of machine found only at Natanz. So unless you happened to be making an Iranian nuclear bomb, it let you off without hurting your computer. The problem lies in the fact that the worm ran freely through cyberspace and lots of people caught a copy. One can be sure that highly skilled hackers in several countries are even now taking it apart, modifying it, and getting it ready to destroy some other target. They are benefiting from free access to the most sophisticated computer attack weapon ever created. That would not be such a problem except for the fact that the thousands of computer networks that run our economy are essentially defenseless against sophisticated computer attacks.

Moreover, the Obama Administration's policy is that the hundreds of privately owned companies that run those networks have to defend them by themselves. Our new military Cyber Command is not allowed to protect our electric power grid, banking system, railroads, or pipelines. Nor is the Department of Homeland Security. Given the fact that Stuxnet may turn into a boomerang, we may want to rethink whether our tax dollars might buy us some defense of the computer networks that we need to make the country run.

Richard Clarke is a former White House counter-terrorism adviser, ABC News consultant and author of "Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What To Do About It".

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