“Thousands of zombified computers” attacked at least 26 websites in the U.S. and South Korea, said Brian Fung in Foreign Policy, and South Korean intelligence is fingering North Korea. The cyber-attacks, which began July 4, at least temporarily shut down an impressive list of sites—at the White House, State Department, Secret Service, New York Stock Exchange, and other institutions. Cyberwarfare is no laughing matter.
If North Korea is behind the cyber-attacks, said Joe Klein in Time, maybe the U.S. should retaliate, to “demonstrate to other would-be perpetrators that we have sophisticated capabilities” at hand. Nothing too drastic—like we could “turn the electricity in Pyongyang on and off a few times, if we can do it.”
“Cooler heads” are pointing away from North Korea, said Kim Zetter in Wired, and toward “an unsophisticated hacker” using the 5-year-old MyDoom computer worm. Also, the 39 U.S. and South Korean sites were hit with “denial of service” attacks, among “the least sophisticated kinds of attack” out there and more a nuisance than a threat. The only reason this one “launched a thousand headlines” is its unusual duration and breadth.
That doesn’t change the underlying problem, that “we don’t have a coherent national cyberdefense,” said Alexandra Petri in The Washington Post. “Literally millions” of cyber-attacks are waged on U.S. systems each day—16,843 on U.S. government sites in 2008, and continual attacks on the private sector. We need a “cyber czar,” to make sure our scattered defenses are effective.