Crossing the red tape of cyber warfare

Crossing the red tape of cyber warfare

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Illustration by: Flor Barajas | Staff Illustrator

With the rise of cyber attacks, modern conflicts are essentially borderless. Surveillance between world powers has too often blurred the lines of cyberwarfare. As technology continues to advance, there is an inherent need to establish rules for this new age of espionage and warfare.

U.S. government and world officials need to realize a “Cyber Geneva Convention” needs to be drafted to establish online boundaries on interactions between countries.

Cyber security was a mainstay in the 2016 presidential election cycle with private email servers, talk of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions being hacked and the overall election being influenced by Russia in some way.

Donald Trump, presidential nominee at the time, tweeted: “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?”

Trump stated that while he did not know who hacked the DNC, it could have been Russia, China, a 14-year-old or someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.

This statement, while comical, is not necessarily wrong. However, cyber warfare and large scale hacks are not typically the work of a 400-pound 14-year-old. They are the work of governments and sophisticated, trained teams. The United States, Russia, China and other world powers have been keeping tabs on one another for years.

Cyber terrorists and internet trolls are completely indistinguishable online. The continued advancement of both technology and ways to manipulate it makes it increasingly difficult to crack down on hackers trying to steal information—whether it is a government official or a Texas State student.

Computer hacks and hackers have only continued to advance. Even Texas State fell victim to a campus-wide phishing attack, where students were baited into providing information to an unofficial source earlier this semester.

Government officials are attempting to prevent a “cyber-Pearl Harbor,” which would take the nation by surprise and devastate information from Tommy down the street to the President of the United States himself. An attack on American servers is bound to happen if we do not step up our informational technology game.

“A cyber attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremist groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack on 9/11,” said Leon Panetta, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, according to the NATO Review.

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s “Worldwide Threat Assessment” strategic outlook states: “The consequences of innovation and increased reliance on information technology in the next few years on both our society’s way of life in general and how we in the Intelligence Community specifically perform our mission will probably be far greater in scope and impact than ever.”

We are living in a different age than most politicians grew up in. Everything they say, do and support is cataloged online. Lack of familiarization among government officials in regards to how the internet works is evident in the recent congressional record. Politicians say internet when they mean web. However, the internet is the structural underpinning of the web, which is what you see while clicking around online.

This lack of familiarization adds to the chaos of a potential cyberattack. We have nuclear warheads that are still controlled by floppy disks. This and numerous breaches in information has created the need for around-the-clock innovation and intervention. It appears that in order to stop the hackers of tomorrow, we need help from the hackers and inventors of today.

-Jakob R. Rodriguez is a journalism freshman

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