OK, maybe that’s a little harsh. But it’s hard to know how else to characterize Tom Gjelten’s segment on NPR this morning, “Could Iran Wage a Cyber War on the U.S.?”
Broadcast on the day that the House of Representatives is set to debate the imperfectly amended Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), NPR announces that “security professionals in both the U.S. government and in private industry…face a new cyberthreat: Iran.”
Ah, Iran, the all purpose bogeyman. It might be hard at the moment to persuade Congress that Russia and China represent such an imminent threat to our cybersecurity that we must surrender our privacy rights, allowing private companies and government agencies to share information collected online with one another, and Internet data to flow directly to the NSA. But a thoroughly demonized Iran is another story.
However, careful listening reveals that the threat is at the moment purely hypothetical.
For several minutes we were treated to various cyber terror experts trotting out dire tales of what Iran “could” do and how it “might act “if they’re pushed to the brink.” In short, it could cause “dramatic havoc.”
What if Iran is afraid of the consequences of a direct cyberattack on the US? Remember, back in June 2011 the Pentagon announced that it would consider cyberattacks against the US by other countries as acts of war that could trigger military retaliation.
According to NPR, it could always share its cyber arsenal “with groups less hesitant to use them.” Enter the second bogeyman in this game of make believe: “One obvious candidate for such a transfer is Hezbollah.”
“There is little, if any, reason to think that Iran would hesitate to engage proxies to conduct cyberstrikes against perceived adversaries,” states Frank Cilluffo, director of George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute.
Cilluffo, who makes frequent appearances before Congressional homeland security subcommittees testifying on such subjects as “The Internet: a Portal to Violent Islamist Extremism” and violent radicalization in the ‘homeland’ and its prisons, will share his fears today with Congress.
When, in 2010, the military and the Defense Department’s NSA joined hands with the Department of Homeland Security to form the Cyber Command, privacy advocates warned that one day the NSA’s tools for surveillance would have a chilling effect on Internet communication. With the way well prepared by the fear-mongering of the “experts” and the media, that day may at last be at hand.
UPDATE: Sure enough, the House endorsed CISPA on April 26 by a vote of 248 to 168 and is now bound for the Senate.