Cofer Black, veteran CIA spook and former vice chairman of the mercenary outfit Blackwater, sees parallels between the terrorism threat that emerged before the September 11 attacks nearly ten years ago and the emerging cyber threat we supposedly confront now, according to Reuters.
Black worked nearly 30 years for the Directorate of Operations at the CIA, now known as the National Clandestine Service. As former CIA employee John Stockwell noted, the unit has “engineered covert action operations in virtually every corner of the globe,” resulting in violent coups and countless people killed. In 2007, it was revealed that more than 50 percent of the National Clandestine Service has been outsourced to private firms.
Black mounted the stage at a Black Hat conference in Las Vegas to make his prediction. “Your world, which everyone thought was college pranks … has morphed into physical destruction,” he told the nearly 6,000 hackers and security professionals at the conference, reports the Wall Street Journal. “Guess what: It is your turn whether you know it or not.”
Black’s comments fall on the heels of a suggestion by former CIA and NSA boss Michael Hayden that a “digital Blackwater” may be required to combat the threat of cyber terrorism.
“We may come to a point where defense is more actively and aggressively defined even for the private sector and what is permitted there is something that we would never let the private sector do in physical space,” Hayden said. “Let me really throw out a bumper sticker for you: how about a digital Blackwater?”
Cofer Black also said the cave-dwelling terror group al-Qaeda will go cyber. “They will enter the cyber world because it’s comparatively remote, comparatively safer than strapping on a bomb,” he said.
Black’s prediction follows a report issued by the British Home Office claiming al-Qaeda has launched a “cyber jihad.”
Last month, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn III said it was “clear” terror groups were “intent on acquiring, refining, and expanding their cyber capabilities.”
Black cited the Stuxnet virus during his speech to Black Hat Linux geeks. “The Stuxnet attack is the Rubicon of our future… Your world, which people thought was college pranks cubed and squared, has now morphed into physical destruction… from the victim’s view, of a national resource. This is huge.”
Stuxnet shut down centrifuges critical to Iran’s uranium processing. The now infamous malware described as the world’s first cyber weapon was jointly developed by the United States and Israel. Unnamed sources at Israel’s Dimona nuclear complex admitted earlier this year that the sophisticated malware was developed in Israel over the last two years as part of a joint US-Israeli operation designed to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.
In April of 2001, Black told a class at a military college that “something big” would happen in the United States. He later told a congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks that during the spring and summer of that year he “became convinced that al-Qaeda was going to strike hard.”