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Our focus on Russian hacking obscures the real problem

Posted by Hitesh Sheth on Jan 18, 2017 4:25:34 PM

This blog was originally published on The Hill.

If I didn’t deal daily with the mechanics of cybersecurity, I might be captivated by Washington’s focus on whether the Russians penetrated the Democratic National Committee and why they did it. As a citizen, I follow politics and geopolitics, too.

But here’s what bothers me:

The hacking tools identified by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security are freely available on the internet. The Russians can use them. So can the Iranians, the Chinese, the North Koreans and any other nation-state which wants to penetrate the networks that serve our political parties and government. There is nothing special or even uniquely “Russian” about them. And they often work.

I am not surprised that such common tools are employed against us. We should expect it. In the cybersecurity business we know the focus should be on our ineffective defense, rather than on finding the guilty country.

Whoever got inside the DNC networks had seven months to plumb about, pilfer embarrassing material, package it for shipping and make off with it, all without detection. The DNC had no way to detect the penetration while it was happening.

Why not? After all, the technology to spot and interrupt hacking while it is in progress exists. We can literally watch hackers and their tools move around inside our networks, probing our vulnerabilities, locating our most sensitive data and setting up private tunnels to take it out of our systems. 

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Topics: cyber security, cybersecurity, hacker, hacking, cyber defense