“Cambridge v Cambridge” Obama and Cameron engage in a cyber-game competition

Paul Hinks

War GamesPresident Barack Obama and David Cameron’s agreement to conduct a cybersecurity War Game recognises the very real threat from co-ordinated online targeted attacks

In what is being dubbed as a “Cambridge v. Cambridge” hackathon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT, of Cambridge, Mass] will go head to head with the University of Cambridge [of Cambridge, England] in a multi-day cybersecurity hackathon where each team will try to outwit its opponent.

After the Sony cyber-attack

The BBC reported the background to the cyber initiative:

The Cybersecurity war games come in the wake of the recent hacking of Sony Pictures’ computers and the US military’s Central Command’s Twitter feed. This posted comments promoting Islamic State (IS) militants.

The cyber-attack on Sony Pictures led to data being leaked from its computers exposing emails and personal details about staff and its movie stars. The hackers, who called themselves #GOP or Guardians of Peace, also threatened Cinema chains planning to screen Sony’s satirical North Korean comedy. The plot of The Interview involves a bid to assassinate the country’s leader Kim Jong-un.

Sony initially cancelled the film’s release after leading US cinema groups said they would not screen it, a move which Mr Obama later described as “a mistake”.

Leaderless Groups and Anonymous

The manner in which online ‘hackers’ collaborate, and distribute their powerbase deserves closer inspection. ‘Anonymous’ is one example of a self-proclaimed ‘leaderless’ group of dispersed individuals labelled as ‘hackers’ for their various well-publicised distributed denial of service attacks.

Anonymous joins the Je Suis Charlie solidarity campaign

Anonymous recently announced that they would target ISIS websites in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack, They’ve already claimed to have had some level of success. The social distribution of multiple leaders does create a powerful and cohesive force – one which can be used for ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – attacking those who are perceived to hold alternative values from their own.

Improving cybersecurity

Obama and Cameron’s initiative may well provide new levels of cybersecurity research, testing current best practice while also creating debate and discussion about how best to protect against future online threats. The initiative needs to look beyond the technical aspects of cyber-attacks and also explore the social dynamics of how online distributed Communities operate.

Acknowledgements

Author Paul Hinks is a regular subscriber to LWD. He blogs on technology, innovation, and social media. His post on Apple, CSR and Leadership is regularly the most visited of the year on LWD.

Thanks and welcome also to our new production assistant Conor Glean.

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