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Battleground Cyberspace

• August 26, 2010 • 3:06 PM

A stealthy flash drive attack emphasizes that hackers are toying with cyber warfare between sovereign states.

“Any of you that have ever felt stepped on, left out, picked on, put down, whether you think you’re a nerd or not, why don’t you just come down here and join us. OK?” lobbies Lewis Skolnick of the hit movie Revenge of the Nerds.

While nerd persecution was rampant in the mid-1980s, great strides in technology and the boom in Silicon Valley have all but eliminated the problem two decades later. In our 21st-century Geekopoly, nerds have taken to jobs once thought outside their realm of cool or, at the very least, their reputed expertise. Some have even taken positions with the U.S. military — serving as the first line of defense in a new battleground: cyberspace.

News of a previously classified breach of military computers — using a flash drive inserted in a “secure” laptop — has been confirmed by a top Pentagon official. Researchers estimate more than 100 foreign intelligence organizations are attempting or have hacked into U.S. military digital networks.

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By the Way

BY THE WAYTidbits from the world ofMiller-McCune

[/class] As our Michael Scott Moore reported earlier this week, cyber warfare has become one of the “foreign frights of 2010,” and not just in the United States. Some 20 nations joined the U.S. in setting up cyberdefense headquarters and developing weaponry that steels networks against attack, even as less-organized militancy chips away at more authoritarian regimes like Iran or Egypt.

As we battle to break through respective firewalls, debate arises on solutions for silicon peacekeeping. “A cyberwar would be worse than a tsunami,” warned a U.N. official citing a (presumably) Russian attack on Estonian computer systems in 2007 as reason enough for a global cyber peace treaty.

Whether peace is kept through collaboration or mutually-assured cyber détente, one thing remains certain, as the militarization of nerds abounds — the time has come for the odd to get even.

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Jessica Hilo
Jessica Hilo is a fellow with Miller-McCune magazine. Her work has been featured in the Santa Barbara Independent, San Francisco Classical Voice, and Canadian webzine Uncharted Sounds. In 2009, Jessica served as a social media commentator at the National Summit for Arts Journalism and a guest panelist at the MIC Journalism Seminar in Los Angeles. She has a Master of Arts degree in Specialized Journalism from the University of Southern California.

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