John P. Carlin, former Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) National Security Division (NSD) and former Chief of Staff to then-FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III presented his book Dawn of the Cold Wars: America’s Battle Against Russia, China, and the Rising Global Cyber Threat at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan on November 13, 2019.
Currently, Carlin chairs Morrison & Foerster’s Global Risk and Crisis Management practice group and is co-chair of the National Security practice group. He also is an inaugural Fellow of Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs’ Homeland Security Project and chairs the Aspen Institute’s Cybersecurity and Technology policy program.
Carlin also previously held positions as National Coordinator of the DOJ’s Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Program and Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.
Dawn of the Cold Wars is the inside story of how America’s enemies launched a cyber war against us – and how we’ve learned to fight back. With each passing year, the internet-linked attacks on America’s interests have grown in both frequency and severity. Over-matched by our military, countries like North Korea, China, Iran, and Russia have found us vulnerable in cyberspace. The “Code War” is upon us.
The book takes readers to the front lines of a global but little-understood fight as the DOJ and the FBI chases down hackers, online terrorist recruiters, and spies. Today, as our entire economy goes digital, from banking to manufacturing to transportation, the potential targets for our enemies multiply. This firsthand account is both a remarkable untold story and a warning of dangers yet to come.
Carlin begins his discussion with a simple scenario that has all-too-often occurred throughout American business and various levels of our government: an email notification is delivered to the organization claiming to have hacked their system and stolen their data, and will only return the data for a digital currency payment of $500. What does the organization do?
Also, do they report it to the government so they can both gain federal assistance and provide the government with leads on cyber-terrorists and international criminal activities? Would the company know that the attack was from al Qaeda, and that the personal information stolen would be used to create a ‘kill list’ of government officials, military personnel, or other individuals that were enemies of al Qaeda?
Describing the numerous government agencies participating in investigating these cyber crimes, Carlin noted how the FBI, DOJ, and Homeland Security, amongst others have changed focus on their work. Their goal would not be to prosecute criminals after their attacks and crimes were completed, but that they would be judged on how well they were at disrupting the attacks and crimes from ever happening. Presently that is why the U.S. Government has an embedded information-sharing mentality on these investigations, so that all groups and personnel can be together on the front lines of America’s cyber-defense program.
Working together with private sector organizations that have been recipients of these cyber-attacks, has helped the government track down the cyber terrorists. It also allows our government to stay up-to-speed on these attacks and the criminals, which in a global background and with international access to the internet, is an incredible obstacle.
Carlin also noted that the low cost of technology has allowed for greater opportunity to perform cyber-attacks on governments and business. Equally challenging is the global ability for cyber terrorists to recruit new criminals, research individual data, and promote messages instantly – all through the same social media that is used by millions of people daily.