nytimes: academic paper or cyberwarfare?

Perry E. Metzger perry at piermont.com
Sun Mar 21 09:42:37 EDT 2010

An article in The New York Times today indirectly highlights the
misunderstanding of the way that researchers try to make things more
secure, which is generally by trying to figure out and point out the

First few paragraphs:

   Academic Paper in China Sets Off Alarms in U.S.

   It came as a surprise this month to Wang Jianwei, a graduate
   engineering student in Liaoning, China, that he had been described as
   a potential cyberwarrior before the United States Congress.

   Larry M. Wortzel, a military strategist and China specialist, told
   the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 10 that it should be
   concerned because “Chinese researchers at the Institute of Systems
   Engineering of Dalian University of Technology published a paper on
   how to attack a small U.S. power grid sub-network in a way that would
   cause a cascading failure of the entire U.S.”

   When reached by telephone, Mr. Wang said he and his professor had
   indeed published “Cascade-Based Attack Vulnerability on the
   U.S. Power Grid” in an international journal called Safety Science
   last spring. But Mr. Wang said he had simply been trying to find ways
   to enhance the stability of power grids by exploring potential

   “We usually say ‘attack’ so you can see what would happen,” he
   said. “My emphasis is on how you can protect this. My goal is to find
   a solution to make the network safer and better protected.” And
   independent American scientists who read his paper said it was true:
   Mr. Wang’s work was a conventional technical exercise that in no way
   could be used to take down a power grid.


Perry E. Metzger		perry at piermont.com

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