[ISN] Surprise! America Already Has a Manhattan Project for Developing Cyber Attacks

http://www.wired.com/2015/02/americas-cyber-espionage-project-isnt-defense-waging-war By Kevin Poulsen Threat Level Wired.com 02.18.15 “What we really need is a Manhattan Project for cybersecurity.” It’s a sentiment that swells up every few years in the wake of some huge computer intrusion—most recently the Sony and Anthem hacks. The invocation of the legendary program that spawned the atomic bomb is telling. The Manhattan Project is America’s go-to shorthand for our deep conviction that if we gather the smartest scientists together and give them billions of dollars and a sense of urgency, we can achieve what otherwise would be impossible. A Google search on “cyber Manhattan Project” brings up results from as far back as 1997—it’s second only to “electronic Pearl Harbor” in computer-themed World War II allusions. In a much-circulated post on Medium last month, futurist Marc Goodman sets out what such a project would accomplish. “This Manhattan Project would help generate the associated tools we need to protect ourselves, including more robust, secure, and privacy-enhanced operating systems,” Goodman writes. “Through its research, it would also design and produce software and hardware that were self-healing and vastly more resistant to attack and resilient to failure than anything available today.” These arguments have so far not swayed a sitting American president. Sure, President Obama mentioned cybersecurity at the State of the Union, but his proposal not only doesn’t boost security research and development, it potentially criminalizes it. At the White House’s cybersecurity summit last week, Obama told Silicon Valley bigwigs that he understood the hacking problem well—“We all know what we need to do. We have to build stronger defenses and disrupt more attacks”—but his prescription this time was a tepid executive order aimed at improving information sharing between the government and industry. Those hoping for something more Rooseveltian must have been disappointed. On Monday, we finally learned the truth of it. America already has a computer security Manhattan Project. We’ve had it since at least 2001. Like the original, it has been highly classified, spawned huge technological advances in secret, and drawn some of the best minds in the country. We didn’t recognize it before because the project is not aimed at defense, as advocates hoped. Instead, like the original, America’s cyber Manhattan Project is purely offensive. […]