Is All Quiet on the Cyber Front?

As President Obama’s signature sealed an agreement last week in Russia to reduce the yields of a seemingly forgotten nuclear arms race, a major attack was launched on a new battlefront — cyberspace.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, 35 government and commercial websites came to a sudden halt as thousands of bits of information were flung towards targeted U.S. and South Korean servers in an attack so sophisticated experts believe it could have only derived from an organized, potentially government-sponsored group. And while these attacks reportedly had little effect on day-to-day operations, they could stand as the beginning of a new and far more pervasive arms race.

Last April, Chinese cyber-spies hacked through the Pentagon’s security system, acquiring sensitive data surrounding a fighter project. A month prior, researchers uncovered that just $500 worth of equipment (a cheap laptop at Best Buy) was enough to break into the proposed multibillion-dollar Smart Grid, granting the hacker power to virtually shut down water and electricity to anyone connected to the grid.

So how will the United States respond to this next-generation arms race? So far, legislation has been proposed and White House reports filed. But, importantly, most of these don’t even deal with the primary threat.

For example, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) recently held a town hall to highlight new technology that would radically alter how the government could keep hackers out.

The technology still employs a user name and password but doesn’t just look at the credential’s “face value.” Instead, the software calculates the speed, cadence and rhythm with which an individual types to assess if she really is who she identified herself as while online. Even better, the company, called Authenware, is based in the U.S.

The cyber front today is far from quiet. In the midst of speculation regarding the origin of the recent cyber attacks, it’s become clear the United States is engaged in a quickly advancing arms race. Are we ready?