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US loses cyberwarfare game

On Tuesday, the Bipartisan Policy Center hosted Cyber ShockWave, a simulation designed to mimic a widescale cyber attack on the US. The wargame, which included a mock White House emergency room, revealed some crucial gaps in US preparedness, according to the BPC.

The scenario, which was unknown to the participants before the event, involved a hypothetical attack on 20 million mobile phones. In the wargame, the phones had been infected months earlier using a widely distributed consumer-focused sports application that contained a trojan.

"When the Cabinet convenes to face this crisis, 20 million of the nation's smart phones have already stopped working," the BPC said. "The attack escalates, shutting down an electronic energy trading platform and crippling the power grid on the Eastern seaboard."

A full program covering the event, called "We Were Warned: Cyber Shockwave" will be aired on CNN this weekend. However, reports suggest that the source of the attack was difficult to pinpoint during the event. John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, who was masquerading as Secretary of State during the event, is quoted as saying that "attribution was one of the hottest issues to deal with".

Legal issues were also raised during the event. Participants discussed the relationship between personal privacy and national security. They also discussed the role of the private sector and the federal government. At one point, nationalizing power companies who fail to make adequate preparations for cyber attack was suggested.

"There is no question in my mind that this is a predictable surprise, and we need to get our acts together," said Stephen Friedman, director of the National Economic Council, who took the role of Treasury Secretary during the simulation.

We'll know more over the weekend, but it doesn't seem as though the US has come very far since the simulated cyberwarfare simulation run by Booz Allen Hamilton in December 2008. That simulation revealed a similar lack of preparation.

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