Home > Identity Theft > 5 Ways to Prepare for the Coming Cyber War

Comments 0 Comments

5 Ways to Prepare for the Coming Cyber WarThis spring, the term “cyber war” turns 20. In his seminal 1993 paper “Cyberwar is Coming!” master military strategist John Arquilla envisioned an entirely new kind of battle.

That vision was articulated again, but as reality, in President Obama’s State of the Union Address last week. The president’s call for a more serious approach to the growing threat of full spectrum cyber war, or “cybergeddon,” came just a week before Mandiant, an American cyber security firm, released a 60-page report detailing a Chinese military unit in Shanghai that poses serious threats to U.S. infrastructure. The silver lining here is that the report bolsters the president’s initiative, which begins today, a crucial step in the right direction for our union, as the state of things in the realm of cyber security are daily showing signs of collapse in the face of relentless foreign attacks against traditional war-time targets like utilities, newspapers, banks and essential government agencies.

The battlefield is everywhere: personal computers, bank accounts, 401(k)s and cash management accounts, drinking water, gasoline pipelines, electrical plants and dams. As news of major breaches roll in like waves on a storm-eroded beach, the likelihood increases that the next war we fight will be waged on computers aimed at crippling the systems that keep the wheels of government and daily life turning.

“There’s a strong likelihood that the next Pearl Harbor that we confront could very well be a cyber attack,” said Leon Panetta, the Secretary of Defense and former director of the CIA.

[Credit Check Tool: Monitor your credit score and activity for free with Credit.com]

Are we prepared? How can we plan for, and survive, a Pearl Harbor-style attack on everyday life? There are two answers: one for the nation and one for America and one for Americans.

The first answer is that our lawmakers need to quit screwing around and do a better job.

Free Credit Check & MonitoringLast week, BusinessWeek cataloged the depth and breadth of the problem with breaches that originate in China while driving home the underlying fact that individual incidents “don’t convey the unrelenting nature of the attacks. It’s not a matter of isolated incidents; it’s a continuous invasion.” The Washington Post reported that China was the main aggressor — targeting “energy, finance, information technology, aerospace and automotives” using malware and other techniques — with a goal of “economic gain.” However, the Chinese government ain’t the only Barbarian at the Gate. Al-Qaida has demonstrated over and over the desire to eviscerate the American way of life. We have a multitude of enemies, and increasingly we are vulnerable to them.

The day after President Obama’s address, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) began its second journey through the House. The problematic bill died last year in the Senate for lack of John Arquilla’s vision. I expressed concerns about CISPA the first time around, specifically regarding privacy safeguards. Privacy advocates don’t think it has enough, because CISPA demands the flow of information going both ways: government to private sector and vice versa. That two-way traffic pattern was notably missing in Obama’s vision this time around (he advocated only for government sharing with the private sector), which may help pave the way for CISPA; provided lawmakers act on the president’s cue. We can only hope that with a few intelligent tweaks CISPA can become law soon.

[Related Article: 7 Things ID Thieves Could Fund With Your Stolen Tax Refunds]

While the creation of uniform security standards for computer systems that run the nation’s critical infrastructure is a no-brainer, the answer to the question “Are we prepared?” is, for the time being, a resounding “Not exactly.”

A worst-case scenario would feature a cornucopia of catastrophe such as shutting down major sections of the power grid, erasing millions of bank accounts, manipulating or hijacking tens of millions of identities, and/or disrupting transportation systems throughout the land. Simply put — systems failure.

So while we wait for Congress to actually do something meaningful for our safety and welfare, here is a short list of things you can do to minimize the damage.

  1. Print It AND Store It. If a hacker brings down your bank’s website, or the entire electrical grid, you need the paper documents to prove what’s rightfully yours. Regularly print out your checking, savings and credit card account transaction information and a recent credit report. Keep scans or equivalent documents on a password-protected encrypted thumb drive. This stuff may well come in handy when power is restored.
  2. Get It Together (And Copy It). Gather personally identifiable documents, place them in sealed, waterproof plastic bags, and store them in more than one secure place like a safe at your house as well as another location you can access in an emergency. Again, password-protected, encrypted portable drives are critical. Documents to include:
    • Birth certificates
    • Social Security cards
    • Insurance policies (car, home, life)
    • Property valuations
    • Ownership deeds to property, car title, mortgage, etc.
    • Information on savings, checking, credit card and investment accounts
    • Contact information for creditors and any company that sends you a bill.
    • Military records
    • Marriage and divorce papers
  3. Think Like a Prepper. I’m not saying that everyone should go out and buy a gas mask, survival axe and walkie-talkies. But having emergency basics including candles and matches is always a good idea. FEMA recommends keeping enough food to last your family two weeks. A cache of cash is also a good idea (ATM networks could go down, too).
  4. Work With Your Neighbors. If the cyber war crashes our electricity and transportation networks for more than a few days, serious chaos would ensue. Rather than stocking the basement full of food, guns and ammo, another option is to come together as a community. Together you can strategize ways to get the food and water you need, and protect the neighborhood from looters. (After all, even the best prepped prepper occasionally needs sleep.)
  5. Demand More From Government. It’s not controversial, complicated or partisan. A unified security standard for every nuclear power plant, drinking water plant and subway system is just common sense. The cyber-security law failed last year due to a combination of cynical obstructionism and correctable flaws in the legislation. Call, write, email and tweet your representatives in Washington. Urge them not to make the same mistake twice.

[Featured Products: Research and compare Identity theft protection plans at Credit.com]

Image: quapan

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team