Military leaders requested new force to fight cyberwar, but got Space Force instead
Right now, Texas is under siege, and there’s not too much our military can do about it.
On Jan. 7, Gov. Greg Abbott told the Domestic Terrorism Task Force that the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) measured, over a 48-hour period, a colossal increase of cyberattacks from Iran on their state agencies “at a rate of about 10,000 per minute.” The DIR claimed it couldn’t provide specific details for security reasons, but some attacks they couldn’t keep under wraps. For example, Texans who visited their Department of Agriculture’s website on Jan. 6 were likely surprised to find an Iranian flag, along with a tribute to deposed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Iran has invested heavily in cyberwarfare ever since the Stuxnet virus attack on their uranium enrichment facility in November 2007. Since 2010, Iran has had success attacking several sectors here in the U.S. During the past 10 years, Iranian hackers have breached several U.S. banks, stolen terabytes of information from universities and government agencies, and even broke into the computer system of a dam outside New York City. In 2013, right after Sheldon Adelson suggested that the United States threaten Tehran with a massive explosion, his Las Vegas Sands’ Casino had its hard drives wiped, allegedly costing $40 million in damages. Just last week, a company that tracks foreign adversaries online discovered that Iranian hackers have developed an extremely sophisticated cyber espionage tool that can track specific individuals online who are targeted for assassination.
The Iranian cyberattacks have seriously escalated since the Jan. 2 assassination of Soleimani, and will likely continue to increase for some time. Cyberattacks can cause a significant amount of damage with minimal effort, but also don’t carry the same weighted response as a direct military assault, due to their subversive and clandestine nature.
These high-tech onslaughts have become a major issue in the past few years; it’s gotten so bad that even disgraced former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen admitted that cyberattacks have moved from an “epidemic” to a “pandemic.” Now Iran is launching an all-out assault, joining other American adversaries such as Russia, China, and North Korea. We can expect ongoing attacks against critical infrastructure sectors, major businesses, and even our elections for the foreseeable future.
We are in desperate need of strong leadership to fight this new war—and it is a war. Unfortunately, we have Donald Trump, who POLITICO appropriately refers to as the “anti-cybersecurity president.” Honestly, that’s an understatement.