Computer Hacking: A Rising Concern for America

Kaylyn Boccia, Staff Writer


We often hear about small-scale hackings of websites such as Facebook or email accounts, but lately there has been a frightening trend of high scale hackings to cause concern. A large number of U.S. companies have been accessed by the Chinese Military. Among this list of companies are: Google, Coca-Cola, General Motors, as well as newspapers including, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. In case that is not concerning enough, major oil companies also have made it on the list.

In 2011, it was discovered by McAfee that five multinational oil and gas companies were hacked by the Chinese (operation Night Dragon), which affected a number of companies in the energy industry. In January, the Department of Energy confirmed that its network had been broken into. Telvent, the company that is responsible for monitoring more than half of all the oil and gas channels in North America, discovered last year that the Chinese had broken into their computer systems as well. President Obama highlighted this threat in his State of the Union address saying, “Our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems…” Obama recently signed an executive order that creates voluntary cyber security standards for companies that manage infrastructure, such as the nation’s electric grid.

Idaho Falls Security Company addressed that several cyber hackings by the Chinese against the energy companies in North America may have been intended to steal fracking technologies. The Chinese motive behind this would be to prevent America from being on top in the energy revolution. Idaho Falls also believes that Telvent and the number of other pipeline hackings may be related. Security researchers believe that the Chinese hackings are in closer relation to spying on the U.S., with intent to boost the Chinese economy, and less likely about attacking or blowing up the United States power network, or pipelines. American intelligence believes that the Chinese are not interested in attacking the U.S. because anything that hurts the U.S. economically will also hurt the Chinese economy. However, Iran does not face these consequences and may be a bigger threat to the U.S.

Representative Mike Rogers says, “China is a rational actor, Iran is not a rational actor.” Iran has also been identified as one of the contenders who would benefit from the shutting down of parts of Americas economy. The reason why Iran remains a bigger threat than China is that Iran does not have any investment in the United States, therefore, not suffering the same consequences China would. Iranians brought down 30,000 computers last year belonging to Saudi Armco, which is the world’s largest oil producer. In this attack the Iranian hackers replaced Saudi Armco’s content with a picture of a burning American Flag. This attack’s main goal was to stop the flow of oil and gas, however, it brought attention to the fact that Iranians held technology and brainpower capable of breaching such an important company’s computer system and information.

An on-going debate continues on whether President Obama should seek military retaliation against such attacks. With so many critical infrastructure systems across the country that remain vulnerable, these attacks could easily happen in the near future, and could have severe consequences. The retaliation and defense against these occurrences could be challenging for the U.S. Do we have the special experts needed by military to retaliate against these attacks? The push by the government seems to demand that private industry put safeguards in place to prevent this hacking. Private industry fights this because they claim the expense of such measures would not be cost effective. In our ever-growing world of technology, it does not come as a surprise that cyber hacking of important companies is becoming a primary issue. The ability to attack could only become easier if security measures are not taken to protect the United States privacy and security. In a world where 12 countries are developing offensive cyber weapons, it is essential that the U.S. protect its infrastructure in the best possible way, regardless of cost.

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