02/28/2008 10:27 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Untold Cyber War

By all mainstream press accounts, the U.S. remains focused on guarding against inbound attacks by large and small enemies, a classic defensive posture anticipating warfare coming from the outside-in: a War of Mass Destruction.

But what if it's an inside-out job -- a cyber-attack via the internet: a War of Mass Disruption?

Think about it: We've become a nation of "internet addicts." Even the smallest of businesses is obsessively dependent on constantly accessing, transferring, and acting upon information via the Internet.

I confess to personally often feeling like a new millennium O.C.D. character in an Oliver Sachs book: "The girl who couldn't stop watching my email" -- with minor symptoms of "google junkie."

And the more all of us Americans increase our dependence on the Internet, the more we make the Internet a prime target for "Hacktivists" -- enemy cyber terrorists.

If even one "Hacktivist" were able to succeed in disrupting our Internet services -- for even a single day -- billions of dollars would be lost in eCommerce transactions -- at the very minimum. Add to that mix the malicious thefts of intellectual property and personal credit information (PCI), from credit card authorizations to classified government information on a larger scale than we've seen to date. To make things really ugly, let's factor in the devastating psychological impact: an extreme loss in confidence and credibility in our financial systems and government.

The danger of cyber-attack is not only real and present, the fact is that we are engaged in a full-on cyber war, 24/7 -- but the public is only aware of the tip of this iceberg.

FBI Director Louis Freeh has gone on record warning how America's over-reliance on information technology has become our Achilles' heel -- even citing how two Chinese military officers have already published a book recommending computer viruses to counterbalance our American military power.

So, what's a country to do?

Plenty, according to venture capitalist Pascal Levensohn, who is co-chairing an important IT Security Entrepreneur's Forum that is being held at Stanford on March 11th.

"Cyber terrorism is an important matter of national interest. And eliminating our country's vulnerability to attacks on our critical communications and network infrastructure requires a working partnership between government and private industry," insists Levensohn.

Basically, eBay's problems and Cisco's problems are also the same problems faced by our government agencies. And thanks to people like Levensohn, a growing group of senior Chief Information Security Officers and high ranking government officials with responsibility for our nation's critical infrastructure are recognizing that government and private industry must move away from operating on a 'need to know' basis -- and head towards the recognition of the mutual benefits of a "need to share" basis, when it comes to our cyber security.

Indeed, at this point, the cost of not improving our public and private partnerships far exceeds the special-interest paranoia which inhibits the growth of public-private partnerships -- especially when you consider how far behind our government has fallen in terms of adopting leading edge technology solutions over the past several decades.

"Our government is riding in the caboose of the innovation train," warns Levensohn. "We're just not deploying the best available solutions in important government agencies in a timely manner. We need to get the early adopters in private industry to collaborate with the government end users who are at the front line of the cyber war -- so that they can recommend more innovative strategies which will superiorly protect our key information infrastructure".

For all these urgent reasons, Levensohn is excited about this upcoming second annual one-day conference, jointly sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and the Kauffman Foundation, which will bring together over 200 people -- leaders from both public and private sectors -- who fund, build, deploy and purchase IT security solutions.

If you are a "change agent" who specializes in critical IT security end user needs, and you want to help in protecting our nation's critical infrastructure, the steering committee encourages you to apply to be an attendee, here.

"We must figure out how to establish more trust between the public and private sectors," reminds Levensohn. " There are many good reasons to create public and private cooperation -- and IT security is one of the most important reasons of all."

Karen Salmansohn is the best selling author of BALLSY: 99 WAYS TO SCORE EXTREME SUCCESS. For more bally insider information visit her at