Though Russia may be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about threats to America’s cybersecurity, one cybersecurity expert is asking people to think smaller.
Cris Thomas tracks reports of “cyberwar operations” by animals, and this week he delivered a speech about why squirrels are the leading attackers, The Washington Post reported.
The unsuspecting animals are believed to be responsible for 879 successful attacks.
“If these numbers are accurate, squirrels just aren’t winning the cyberwar, they’re crushing it,” Thomas said during his speech, titled “35 Years of Cyberwar: The Squirrels are Winning,” which he delivered at the annual Easy Coast hacker convention Shmoocon 2017.
The speech is just Thomas’ latest attempt to clear up myths and misunderstanding surrounding cyberwarfare.
“A lot of people don’t understand the word ‘cyber,’ and because we don’t understand it, we’re afraid of it,” he told The Washington Post. “And because we’re afraid of it, it must be bad.”
“We’ve been told to fear cyberattacks from large-threat actors that will cripple the electric grid — there has been no dissenting voice,” he added.
According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, nearly two out of three Americans are convinced that Russian hacking impacted the presidential election in some way.
“Practically speaking, an adversary is going to go after our civilian infrastructure first,” former National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command chief Keith Alexander said last fall. “We’re seeing that in some of the things going on today. Take down the power grid and the financial sector, and everybody’s going to forget about these problems.”
But Thomas’ point is that animal saboteurs – ranging from squirrels to birds, even caterpillars and jellyfish – are still a looming threat.
He said that power companies and critical industries in general have vulnerabilities, and that “we need to fix these problems and devote some resources.”
“But we can’t go whole hog and go Cheney doctrine,” he said. “It’s like terrorism and Iraq. We just went totally nuts trying to solve this one problem. When it comes to the hype that’s out there from the cyberwar hawks, I think we need to tone it down a little bit.”