Everybody recalls the notorious Manhattan Project at the end of World War II, which has resulted in the development of the atomic bomb. The necessity for effective methods that work against cyber crime has made a lot of people call for a project of similar use. The US has been trying to come up with a truly efficient way of knowing what happens online and a project seeking such information seems like the perfect medium to accomplish just that.
According to Marc Goodman from Medium, a cyber Manhattan Project would be the best tool to make use of online:
“This Manhattan Project would help generate the associated tools we need to protect ourselves, including more robust, secure, and privacy-enhanced operating systems. 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. Such a project of national and even global importance would have the vision, scope, resources, budgetary support and perhaps most importantly, a real sense of urgency required in order to make it a success.”
Based on the remarks made by the President Barack Obama at the Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection Summit, there is ground on which such a project could be built and prosper over time:
“We all know what we need to do. We have to build stronger defenses and disrupt more attacks.”
However, such comments about future plans come to contradict the recent revelations that have pointed out the existence of a cyber Manhattan Project from as early as 2001 in the United States. The Equation Group, which appears to be directly linked to it, has been embedding hostile malware to intelligence agencies and Governmental sources abroad (in Russia, China and Iran). The breaking news was brought to light in Mexico during the Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit that is held on an annual basis.
Of course, such news highlights a very different approach as to the actual reason why the NSA (and the United States in general) would wish to embrace a cyber Manhattan Project. Unlike the initial statement that leads us to assume that the main cause of setting up such a project would be to defend the country against hostile acts, it is now proven that the main reason is none other than cyber espionage. The malware has been dormant or moving slowly and this is why it has remained undetected for so long.
The deployment made by the NSA has been taking a lot of time, offering a camouflage and the opportunity not to raise suspicions. Based on the extent of interest by the NSA, the agency decides whether to proceed or not with the following steps that involve gathering of information and possible revelation of the malware.
If you combine the revelations made by Kaspersky and the continuous revelations by Edward Snowden along with the gigantic budget of US agencies like the NSA (with about $10.8 billion), you can connect the dots. A much better strategic plan for attacking foreign countries and their cyber space is of top priority for the United States, since there is a growing need for obtaining crucial online data and monitoring what the others do in the form of leverage.
Ali Qamar is an Internet security research enthusiast who enjoys “deep” research to dig out modern discoveries in the security industry. He is the founder and chief editor at Security Gladiators, an ultimate source for cyber security. To be frank and honest, Ali started working online as a freelancer and still shares the knowledge for a living. He is passionate about sharing the knowledge with people, and always try to give only the best. Follow Ali on Twitter @AliQammar57
Edited by Pierluigi Paganini
(Security Affairs – Manhattan Project, US Government)