Tried, Tested and Proven

cybersecurityA few weeks ago we heard the breaking news that the United States Central Command twitter account had been hacked by ISIS, the week ended with David Cameron and Barack Obama joining forces to put Cyber Security centre stage as a global issue.

The Twitter and YouTube channels of the US Military Central Command were suspended after they were taken over by hackers affiliated to ISIS. The group calling itself Cyber Caliphate hijacked the Centcom twitter account and sent out the message “AMERICAN SOLDIERS, WE ARE COMING, WATCH YOUR BACK.” They then tweeted out what they claimed were U.S. military PowerPoints and personal data on retired Army personnel. All this happened at the same time as President Obama was making a speech about the importance of American businesses protecting their networks from cyber attack and data theft!

The Centcom You Tube page was also hacked and two Islamic State propaganda videos were added. The Twitter account was suspended 40 minutes after the first rogue tweet at 12.30pm. YouTube terminated the Centcom account “due to repeated or severe violations” of their guidelines. Central Command also has several FaceBook accounts but these appear to be unaffected.

Centcom made an official statement that “operational military networks were not compromised and there was no operational impact to U.S. Central Command.” They made it clear they were viewing this purely as a case of cyber terrorism. Though even if military systems and devices have not been compromised, the objectives of the CyberCaliphate are still achieved by the media frenzy that the hack has caused.

Senior commentators like the head of the City of London Police, have been saying for some time that the greatest terrorist threat we now face is from cyber terrorism.

Just two months ago Commissioner Adrian Leppard warned the Bank of England and the City banks that “there could be a very serious impact to the financial institutions of the world through a cyber attack,….which is why we’ve got to push back and take action now before it happens,” The Commissioner singled out ISIS as the most likely threat agent.

Although the Centcom attack may not have compromised systems or stolen any data many security experts believe it is a taste of things to come. Which may be why the subject of cyber security is looming so large today in Washington. The UK and the US are announcing further initiatives to share each others sensitive information on terrorist activities, as well as attacks against large companies and the personal information of individuals.

Both countries are setting up so called “cyber cells” on either side of the Atlantic to pool their expertise and knowledge. On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme  Nick Robinson, their Chief Political Correspondent referred to the joint announcement about cyber war games to be played between the two countries to test their respective defences. The first of which will be the Americans attacking the Bank of England and the banks in The City of London. Mr Robinson suggested that most people would be surprised that such scenario based exercises weren’t already happening. David Cameron assured him that “it is happening already but it needs to be stepped up.”

The official visit to the White House is an attempt to put cyber security at the top of the international agenda and promote information sharing between trusted allies. Something the business community has been increasingly engaged in for some time.

These are welcome steps in the right direction but more will need to be done as this is an ever changing landscape where the enemy grows more powerful by the day.

Clive Room