[ISN] Cyber Warfare (long -- with comments)

From: mea culpa (jerichot_private)
Date: Sun Jul 26 1998 - 14:20:37 PDT

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    Originally From: alan l cottrell <acottrellt_private>
    Posted To: dc-stufft_private
    THE WASHINGTON POST (July 26, 1998): Intent on developing more powerful
    weapons for penetrating enemy computer networks, U.S. military and
    intelligence authorities are struggling to define new rules for deciding
    when to launch cyber attacks, who should authorize them and conduct them
    and where they fit into an overall defense strategy[1]. 
    Not since the advent of nuclear bombs half a century ago have national
    security officials confronted weapons with such potential to alter the
    means for waging war, say those involved in the planning.  But the
    consequences of their use remain largely unexamined and problematic[2]. 
    The extent of U.S. offensive capabilities is among the most tightly held
    national security secrets[3].  According to various accounts, the
    government has explored ways of planting computer viruses or "logic bombs"
    in foreign networks to sow confusion and disruption[4]. 
    It has considered manipulating cyberspace to disable an enemy air-defense
    network without firing a shot[5], shut off power and phone service in
    major cities, feed false information about troop locations into an
    adversary's computers and morph video images onto foreign broadcast
    Pentagon officials say they are at an early stage of thinking about the
    various applications for cyber weapons and the legal, ethical and
    operational consequences of employing them.  But because of secrecy
    concerns, many of the programs remain known only to strictly
    compartmentalized groups, inhibiting the drafting of general policy or
    specific rules of engagement[7]. 
    "It's a little bit like medical ethics,"[8] said a high-ranking Defense
    Department official who requested anonymity.  "The technology gives you
    the capabilities that go a lot further than the ethical context for using
    them sometimes.  This is a very tough area." 
    A presidential directive last month outlining a plan for raising U.S. 
    defensive barriers against computer attacks made no mention of the
    offensive side of the issue.  Senior administration officials say no
    presidential directive about offensive capabilities is in the works that
    might help resolve the differences between the Pentagon and intelligence
    Similarly, Congress has held next to no public debate[10] on the direction
    the United States should be heading in inventing cyber weapons[11],
    writing guidelines for their use or weighing the potential international
    repercussions of unleashing them.  At a Senate hearing last month that
    focused on the vulnerability of America's information systems to
    unauthorized entry[12], Sen. Carl M. Levin, D-Mich., gingerly questioned
    whether the United States is developing offensive capabilities.  George J.
    Tenet, director of Central Intelligence, said the nation can rest assured
    that "we're not asleep at the switch in this regard." 
    For all the interest in cyber warfare, specialists cautioned that yawning
    gaps exist between what the technology promises and what practitioners
    currently can deliver[13].  Large-scale computer attacks require an
    extraordinary amount of detailed intelligence about a nation's hardware
    and software systems[14], as well as about the habits and decision-making
    processes of foreign and military authorities. 
    "Frequently, we like to think of electronic attack as the ultimate in
    precision weapons," said Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, a leading Navy
    authority on the subject.  "But these are not necessarily very precise
    Much is still unknown about how a major cyber attack would play out. 
    "We don't understand the cascading effects on decision-making of what
    providing defective data to an enemy may mean," said a colonel responsible
    for the Air Force's information warfare plans.  "That's a hard thing to
    Other critical questions surround these largely untested weapons, experts
    say.  Given their broad destructive potential, for instance, should cyber
    weapons be placed under a special military command authority, similar to
    the Strategic Command that manages targeting plans for the U.S. atomic
    When should the United States justifiably consider taking down chunks of
    the information infrastructure of a foreign country?  What are the risks
    of inviting retaliation? 
    How should intrusions into foreign systems be conducted in peacetime for
    the benefit of intelligence gathering, and when does such snooping --
    which often involves the same computer techniques as offensive action --
    cross some boundary into outright aggression? 
    "What constitutes an act of war in this area?  It's never been made
    clear," said Brenton C. Greene, a former Pentagon specialist in
    information operations who served on the presidential commission that
    studied U.S. vulnerabilities last year... 
    for the remainder of this article, see http://www.washingtonpost.com
    [1] the us military is not allowed to conduct warfare on its own
    citizens, right?  especially without a formal declaration of war?
    [2] right now, who else could they be used against -- besides us, i mean?
    [3] i'm wondering, is this why the clinadmins what to force weak
    encryption upon us -- especially at the export level?  you know those
    feisty germans.  we could never invade granada again if we let them
    secure their communications...
    [4] a.) who's been talking?
    b.) remember this the next time someone criticized the use of worms,
    viruses or security testing...
    c.) is this a possible defense for kevin mitnick (well, the government is
    doing it, why can't i?).
    [5] just like the legion of the underground -- good going, guys
    [6] a.) once again, just like the legion of the underground (they're
    really cyberspies)... </sarcasm>
    b.) now your domestic station is running american military diversions
    while cnn is live, on the ground, filling you in on what is really
    happening.  and which station do you watch?  which one do you believe?  a
    little crinkle in the plan here.  now, if the were to take over cnn...
    [7] pete, sinster -- all you security consultants out there, i'm sensing
    a brand new business opportunity, with the potential for wealth and fame:
    teach the military how to conduct cyber war.  you better act quick,
    before this article reaches new mexico (i figure you've got two weeks),
    and carolyn sees the same opportunity (that ought to give you another two
    [8] can you have ethics and the defense department logically in the same
    sentence.  anyway, forget about carolyn, she doesn't have any ethics...
    [9] ok, so the pentagon has a new toy and the nsa and cia want to play
    with it too?  don't you feel safer now?
    [10] although patrick leahy (senator from vermont, sits on intelligence
    committee, and generally knowledgeable about technology) admitted that
    there were secret hearings before the intelligence committee on just this
    [11] mitnick wasn't cracking into people's computers, he was inventing a
    new form of cyber weapon on behalf of the us military...
    [12] i think they're talking about you
    [13] what they're really trying to say is this: For all the interest in
    cyber warfare, specialists cautioned that yawning gaps exist between what
    government employees can currently do and what everyone else seems
    capable of...
    [14] not unlike the kind of "intelligence" that pete currently collects
    -- i'm seeing money rushing to you, evil pete...
    [15] yep.  i'm volunteering to lead the Strategic Command for the Use and
    Exploitation of Cyber Weaponry in All Circumstances Short of a Formal
    Declaration of War as passed by Congress
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