Should the U.S. Brace for More Cyber Attacks?

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Yet another wave of Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) Attacks hit South Korea today, despite the country standing on high alert for more cyber attacks.

A combination of public and private Web sites were hit, including South Korea's largest newspaper Web site, a major Internet auction Web site, a bank, the home page of South Korea President Lee Myung-Bak, and the home page of U.S. Forces Korea. The source of the attacks hasn't been confirmed, but South Korea blames North Korea while some security experts suspect attention-craving hackers.

U.S. Web sites have been unaffected after a weekend of cyber attacks targeting several government Web sites that eventually brought down the Federal Trade Commission's Web site periodically on Monday and Tuesday.

It's not clear how Washington will respond -- or has responded -- to the attacks. Coincidentally, the AP reported before the attacks that the U.S. government is moving slowly and cautiously to erect a cyber defense pilot program. One would think that recent events cast new light on the program, called Einstein, but so far the government, and the Obama administration in particular, is staying mum.

This is surprising, as Barack Obama has made cybersecurity a key issue following his election. In a speech at the end of May, he painted a bleak picture, calling cyber threats "one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation."

Still, it's hard to see a clear path to cyber safety. Two phases of the Einstein program are in place, but they can only detect attacks. The third phase can actually stop them, but the method of tracking data going in and out of government Web sites has privacy groups worried -- and rightfully so -- that the public could be snooped on.

Meanwhile, one lawmaker, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), introduced a bill that gives the Department of Homeland Security more power to proactively fight cyber attacks. Details are vague, though, and any bill, as introduced, is subject to change during the legislative process, assuming it can even make it through Congress.

Government has a tendency and a reputation to move slowly, but if there is any potential for DDOS attacks to hit the U.S. in the future, it should be clear to the public what is being done to stop them.

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