Discussion Paper

Strategic Advantage: Why America Should Care About Cybersecurity

| October 2009

Melissa Hathaway discusses several potential targets within our cyberspace, including government networks, private sector networks, and personal computers, in this Belfer Center discussion paper. Below is one example:

"As President Obama acknowledged in his groundbreaking speech on May 29, 2009, we experienced one of the most significant attacks on our military networks last year. Several thousand computers were infected by malicious software, forcing our troops and defense personnel to give up their external memory devices and thumb drives-changing the way they use their computers every day.

Earlier this year, our networks were threatened by the Conficker worm, a pervasive computer virus that has been described as "the largest computer worm infection since 2003." Many companies across the United States participated in the Conficker Cabal to identify the vulnerabilities and prepare technical solutions (patches). The Conficker worm is a self-replicating program. It takes advantage of networks or computers that have not kept up to date with the security patches - largely for computers using Windows operating systems. It can infect machines from the Internet or hide on a USB stick, carrying data from one computer to another.

Conficker could be triggered to steal data or turn control of infected computers over to amassing Zombies into a botnet. The botnet armies are still growing and Conficker has not yet been resolved. It has been estimated that millions of machines worldwide are infected, and about one in five business computers still lack the patch for this Windows bug that first was detected in November 2008."


The entire paper can be read here:

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Hathaway, Melissa. “Strategic Advantage: Why America Should Care About Cybersecurity.” Discussion Paper, 2009-12, , October 2009.

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