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CISPA and the Emergence of a Cyber Détente

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Si vis pacem, para bellum

It's a Latin term which translated means "If you want peace, prepare for war".

With congress currently wading through the political details of CISPA, the "Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act", it is slowly becoming apparent that the internet can no longer be considered the high-tech playground that everyone once thought it was.

So, with the danger posed on both sides of the cyber-hacker war, is the internet bearing witness to an internet cyber-détente?

We have all known directly, or through someone that we know, about the effects of cyber-hackers. They can do anything from changing high school grades, to turning off street lights, to stealing hundreds of thousands of social security numbers from websites. But little did many of us realize just how dangerous these hacking activities could become.

Back in June 2010, it was discovered that a computer worm known as Stuxnet was unleashed upon an Iranian nuclear facility, with the apparent intent of damaging or destroying that facility's network infrastructure by targeting very specific networked industrial equipment (in this case, Siemens Industrial Programmable Logic Controllers). Apparently the "attack" did what was intended, forcing the Iranian government to seriously consider putting in place additional cyber-protections to prevent further infections. This even led to the government physically disconnecting many of it's high priority oil well facilities from the internet altogether.

But even with all of the potential physical damage that can be caused by cyber-hackers, there is a virtual world, the internet itself, that is at risk of total annihilation. That's right -- total and complete virtual annihilation.

Imagine for a second, a scenario where groups of cyber-hackers wage all out war online. Using infected code, their targets include companies, then websites, and then eventually servers themselves. Imagine all of the world's largest servers, those that make up the backbone of the internet as we know it, being laid waste by continuous cyber-attacks, until the internet becomes a virtual wasteland. Don't think this can happen? It's not that far-fetched.

This brings about the inevitable idea, that with all of the cyber-firepower that exists around the world -- viruses, hackers, worms, trojan horses, the list goes on -- the internet can easily be presented with a situation where the war becomes a no-win scenario. A cyber-détente, where both sides realize that the outcome will be total destruction, based on an all-or-nothing form of warfare.

It will be interesting to see where CISPA will take the national debate on individual privacy-versus-cyber security. One can only hope that the discussion will protect the internet from a virtual brink of destruction, and keep cyberspace safe for everyone.

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