17 January 2011

4th Generation Warfare: Insider Risk...

Several months ago, this blog discussed the implications of the "Stuxnet" malware that was being investigated by international authorities. Yesterday, the New York Times published a more detailed set of facts and a hypothesis that the sophisticated "worm code" was tested in Israel.


William J. Broad, John Markoff and David E. Sanger.
The Dimona complex in the Negev desert is famous as the heavily guarded heart of Israel’s never-acknowledged nuclear arms program, where neat rows of factories make atomic fuel for the arsenal.
Over the past two years, according to intelligence and military experts familiar with its operations, Dimona has taken on a new, equally secret role — as a critical testing ground in a joint American and Israeli effort to undermine Iran’s efforts to make a bomb of its own.
Behind Dimona’s barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran’s at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran’s ability to make its first nuclear arms.

4th Generation Warfare (4GW) and the implications for global critical infrastructure organizations is obvious. The Operational Risks associated with targeted infiltration of systems that control machines, manufacturing processes and software that manages transportation has now changed the baseline for where to begin mitigating this asymmetric threat.

Executives now realize the requirement for improved focus on the "Insider Threat" to their systems operations. Why? This particular worm was initially delivered by a USB Thumb Drive according to various reports. This means that someone would have to have been inside the facility targeted for the attack to introduce the malware to the actual system controller. A person within the perimeter of the organization with this single device could set the chain reaction in motion.

Whether you are a major manufacturer or an electric utility doesn't matter. The person you trust to access systems inside the organization is the basis for mitigating this type of attack. Most important is the scrutiny associated with the extended supply chain of semi-trusted contractors or others known to the organization. All of the back ground checks and other methods for determining someone's character will not be the major deterrent to a worm introduced internally to an Intranet with the use of a USB thumb drive.

So what is the answer to address this threat? A TSA-style check, scan and pat down at the entrance to every commercial enterprise that has computers inside with open USB ports? This is very unlikely in the near term for most facilities.

What about disablement of the technology itself, that turns off the ports themselves on each system inside the organization perimeter? This solution is more likely to deter many opportunities for this type of USB style attack to occur, yet still doesn't remove all of the risks against another possible entre to the network through a CD drive as an example. Regardless of the method or the controls you employ to mitigate this risk, it will not eliminate the entire threat from your organization. Even the use of a "Digital Sandbox", Endpoint security measures or other methods to disable ports on systems will entirely lock down your organization.

There is only the ability to create a more resilient and durable environment to survive a significant business disruption. The mind set shift to durability and the latency to recover now becomes the new strategy for these kinds of risks. Using a strategy for resilience is one that requires significant resources and a committed management team. The ability to survive is the first part of the process and how soon you return to full operational capability is the metric. How long does it take to bounce back to normal in your organization?

The ability to manage emerging risks, anticipate the interactions between different types of risk, and bounce back from disruption will be a competitive differentiator for companies and countries alike in the 21st century.


Homeland security is often seen as a protective, even defensive, posture. But Maginot lines are inherently flawed. Fences and firewalls can always be breached. Rather, the national focus should be on risk management and resilience, not security and protection. Resilience—the capability to anticipate risk, limit impact and bounce back rapidly—is the ultimate objective of both economic security and corporate competitiveness

No comments:

Post a Comment