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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Beatrice Rangel: Hawaii and the Next Hetacomb
Former Venezuela Presidential Chief of Staff Beatrice Rangel ruminates on the human error and technological glitch that set off a missile alarm in Hawaii over the weekend -- and what would happen if a hacker could do that.

By Beatrice E. Rangel

On Saturday, January the 13th, 2018, the population of Hawaii was suddenly shocked by a false alert sent through cellphones warning of an imminent ballistic missile attack.

Chaos and confusion reigned for over half an hour before authorities could safely inform the population it was a mistake.

The incident comes as an excellent reminder to the world on how dangerously easy it is for a technological glitch to unleash armed conflicts among nations.

One can easily imagine the U.S. responding to the threat by triggering its defensive shield against the would-be attacker to visualize the destructive wave and the millions of casualties.

And, while authorities have concluded that it was operator error that caused the mistake, one wonders what would have happened if it was hacking episode. Yes, hackers can create misreading and network failure. They can also change codes and passwords and they can delete information while inserting another that could be detrimental to the intervened network.

Law enforcement authorities have just brought down perhaps the most important cybercriminal organization. To be sure, a cybercrime network called Avalanche grew from 2009 to 2016 into the world’s top criminal syndicate. Its founders went to every extreme to set up a worldwide organization resembling a Fortune 500 business concern. Its structures rivaled that of Exxon or JPMorgan, and it recruited the best and the brightest in the areas of technology, finance and international trade. It had its innovation department along with its operations chief, advertisement guru, sales force and customer service unit.

Avalanche was in short the Amazon.com for cybercrime. At its peak, the Avalanche group had either set up or advised other players on the creation, development and execution of hacking operations, fraudulent financial transactions and identity thefts well over US$400 billion.

Now imagine, just imagine that a US enemy decides to enlist the talent of the remaining Avalanches in the world to engulf the U.S. and any other country (North Korea, China, Russia) into a nuclear exchange. This could bring the world to tatters.

The probability increases as leading countries enter the Hypersonic arms race.

These weapons systems have missiles that are much faster than current missiles and are virtually impossible to detect. China and the U.S. are leading the race so far, but other countries are beginning to research the technology supporting these arms.

Given the untraceable nature of these weapons, once a missile Is launched probabilities of destroying it before it meets its target are virtually null. A criminally induced incident with these armaments could bring about the end of the world as we know it.

This scenario could gain probability if the world continues to allow organized crime to take over countries like Somalia, Iran; Cuba, Sudan, Syria, North Korea, Congo, and Venezuela.

Given that, in bringing down Avalanche, a key challenge for law enforcement authorities was the lack of a coordinated global structure under which cyber criminals can be charged and prosecuted, chances are high that other Avalanches are in the making.

Indeed, diverse parts of Avalanche’s structure had set up in rogue states or in countries with less stringent checks and controls. From those bases Avalanche could execute its criminal strategy that included penetration of computer systems serving authorities in nation states. As this aspect of globalization continues to run afoul, probabilities of a mistake-induced apocalypse increase exponentially.

Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.

For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.

You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.

Also by Beatrice Rangel in her Latin America from 35,000 Feet series

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