Do you Respond to a [Software] Attack with Unarmed Fighter Jets?

You can’t entirely prevent an software attack, but you can be prepared to respond.

In 2015, we learned an interesting fact about how prepared the United States Armed Forces were to respond to an attack. During the attacks on September 11, 2001, after three other airplanes attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon, all flights were ordered to land immediately. But Flight 93 continued its course towards Washington, D.C.

In response to Flight 93 disobeying the orders to land, the government ordered multiple F-16 fighter jets to scramble and fly towards Flight 93, presumed to have been hijacked due to its refusal to land. What we did not know until 2015 is that the fighter jets were not equipped with munitions to shoot down the plane. Consequently, the only option was for the pilots to ram the jets mid-air to stop them from approaching Washington D.C.

Apparently, the U.S. was more focused on threats farther away and had disarmed their domestic fighter jets. I don’t want to second-guess or comment on their military strategy, but did they ever play the game of Risk?

Prepare to Respond to Attacks in Modern Software Warfare

The September 11, 2001 attacks are similar to and an example of how it is nearly impossible to see and detect every threat. Likewise with software, as programs get more complex, users get more creative, and inter-connectivity increases, it leaves applications vulnerable. Software developers should do everything they can to protect their applications. However, I subscribe to the philosophy that if your applications are popular enough, eventually your systems will get hacked.

When your application is hacked, how you respond to those attacks will be just as important as protecting yourself in the first place. It’s a sad but true reality that we can’t anticipate all threats. But, I do believe that we can be more prepared to respond.

At Event Espresso and Event Smart we have a fairly rapid release process where within a minute or less of fixing a security hole we can release updates to our products. While that won’t stop the attack from happening in the first place, it does allow us to quickly block the attack and move on to damage control.

While an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as software developers we should have a process in place to manage an attack of various types that was unable to be prevented.

Ultimately, we were fortunate that the passengers of Flight 93 were able to neutralize the plane and do what the U.S. military was not very prepared to do. But we should not find ourselves in such a vulnerable position so that when an attack happens we are not even prepared to respond.

What is your process for responding to an attack on your software, platform or infrastructure?

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