WikiLeaks, the Pearl Harbor of the 21st Century

Remember Pearl HarborToday is the 69th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The devastating surprise attack on the United States set in motion events that few people could comprehend in 1941. The lives lost that day and the days that followed must never be forgotten.  As a country, we would learn a very tough lesson in 1941: not being adequately prepared to defend ourselves against a “surprise attack” would have a devastating impact on our nation for years to come.

In 2010 we are dealing with another type of attack that will cause serious damage and may have far reaching consequences that are hard to comprehend.  The US Federal Government was caught by surprise and is seemingly defenseless against the attack by WikiLeaks.  The illegally obtained documents that are now exposed to the entire world have not only caused embarrassment, but have also undermined the security of our nation.  One silver lining is that now there is a clear global awareness of the risk that exists.  What action can you take to prevent a similar occurrence?

Ironically, the encryption technology that could have prevented these documents from leaking is now being used by WikiLeaks as an “insurance” file, should Julian Assange be arrested and prosecuted.  Supposedly, the file with AES 256 bit encryption has been distributed to ten locations and it has already been downloaded by thousands of people. They are just waiting for the key. In the event that Assange is arrested the encryption key will be released to expose the next round of files. The files are thought to contain classified information about Guantanamo Bay, an aerial video of a US airstrike in Afghanistan that killed civilians, in addition to files related to BP and Bank of America.  By the way, AES 256 bit encryption cannot be broken with current technology.

In November 2010, the US Federal Government’s CYBERCOM became fully operational.  It’s mission is to synchronize the Defense Department’s various networks and cyberspace operations to better defend them against the onslaught of cyber attacks.  Unfortunately in this case it was too late. 

Every government agency and company should get serious about implementing similar technology before this happens to them. Persistent file protection is not a new technology and is currently used by millions of people throughout the world. Every company that has anything to lose if confidential documents are exposed to the public should immediately lock them with file level encryption.

Get prepared! The bad guys have started the attack!!


Comments 3

  1. How was this a cyber attack? This is purely the result of bad information management which sadly exists in many government organizations, both at the critical and non-critical levels.

    It was an inside job. Done by an American. You are trivializing Pearl Harbour with your comparison.

    You are correct with your observation that tools exist which would prevent such leaks. They would also make it easier for increased transparency in government and responses to Freedom of Information requests and legal discovery. Maybe there will be some action on IM as a result.

    1. I agree on bringing this to everyone’s attention. It was a lack of oversight and bad processes. Persistent protection technology is important and should be used to prevent this type of events.

  2. There are two troubling aspects to the WikiLeaks disclosures. First, that so much information could have been disclosed by one bored soldier at a computer but even more serious is that so much of this information was, inappropriately, held secret from the American people. It’s really too bad that it takes something like WikiLeaks to tell us what is going on. And don’t tell me how awful it is that real secrets may have been disclosed. I agree but it also is awful that our government declares so much of what it does as secret and that it tells us only what it wants to. This secrecy includes not only the State Department leaks (many of which making it into the press were simply amusing or else information that had already been reported in some form or other) but also the financial information on which huge corporations received TARP bailout money. That was absurd. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the government was telling Americans what they actually needed to know to be informed citizens.

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