Should Western countries prepare for the “day after” of a massive cyber attack?

In an article published on the Defenseone.com website, Dr. Samantha F. Ravish, holder of the Cyber ​​Chair and Technological Innovation of the Defense and Democracy Foundation, calls fora urgent creation of a plan to resume economic and social activity in the United States, in the case of a massive cyber attack, referring to the “The Day After” plan that the Pentagon developed during the Cold War in the event of a nuclear attack on the whole of American territory.

Indeed, many beams today point to the growing and now sufficient capacities of countries like China or Russia, to carry out global cyber operations against the United States, likely to destroy, for a time, a large part of communication networks, banking networks, as well as electricity supply grids. According to the researcher, we must now admit that these countries, and perhaps others, are today capable of carrying out such operations against the United States and their allies, and that beyond the essential protection measures, a disaster recovery plan must be created, to minimize the negative effects of such an attack, if any.

It will only take a few days for scenes of riot and looting to appear following a massive cyber attack

Indeed, the resilience of the civilian population is, as a general rule, the great lack of documents framing Western defense policies. According to estimates, and depending on the country, the absence of communication networks and electricity supply will lead to the first movements of crowds between a few hours and a few days, before quickly turning into urban riots, mass exodus, looting ... cities are the most vulnerable, their food supply being managed on a just-in-time basis, and non-perishable personal food reserves are no longer a priority for households today. Hospitals will also be very threatened, even if they now have an independent power supply to maintain care for a few days. On the other hand, drugs, such as the presence of caregivers, will quickly become a problem. The dematerialization of payments, and the reduction of cash reserves will also quickly pose significant tensions, such as the shortage of fuel. It is clear that the resilience of citizens, homes and cities are very problematic today, whether in the face of a military or cyber attack.

This vulnerability has not escaped the notice of other countries, however. In 2017, Vladimir Putin launched a plan to strengthen the overall resilience of the Russian population and economy, in the face of different types of attacks, whether cyber, conventional or nuclear. The public services, the Oblasts and the cities, were called to prepare procedures in the event of disasters, and to sensitize the population, put at the heart of this strategy. The Russians were therefore called upon to always have, at home, food reserves for a week, candles, batteries, water, and the various equipment essential to their survival over this period. Companies have been called upon to be able to work in a “war economy”, with short circuits and local supplies.

In France, the National Information Systems Security Agency is in charge of protecting critical infrastructures against cyber attacks.

As for the Russian state, it took measures to be able to disconnect the Russian domestic internet network from the global network. Public service and security computers are also migrated to national equipment, with a clean operating system less exposed to viruses than commercial OS can be. Finally, citizen resilience is widely discussed and highlighted, whether in schools, as in many television programs. The Chinese authorities have also put in place similar procedures and plans, also relying on a population more sensitive to these risks than many Westerners.

Because, and beyond the call launched by Samantha F. Ravish for the implementation of technological solutions to a possible cyber attack, it is indeed, and above all, the very weak resilience of Western populations which constitutes today the greatest threat, and the greatest weakness, to our countries. Nuclear deterrence will be of little importance if, after a few days following a cyber attack, half the population is starving, and the other half has taken up arms ...

It is therefore necessary, and urgent in view of the proven threats, to initiate a reflection on the measures to be implemented to make the French and European populations aware of these threats, and to provoke a massive awareness of the latter vis-à-vis these threats. -with regard to current developments in international security, and their consequences. Awareness which, as such, can only benefit the country's defense effort, and therefore the country's overall resilience in the face of future security challenges.

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