[ISN] 'Logic Bomb' Arms Race Panics Russia

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Mon Nov 30 1998 - 18:30:36 PST

  • Next message: mea culpa: "[ISN] Looking Both Ways on the Info Superhighway"

    Forwarded From: Nicholas Charles Brawn <ncb05at_private>
    By Matthew Campbell, Washington.
    FEARING it has slipped behind America in an arms race involving secret
    weapons of the future, Russia is proposing an international treaty to
    control "information warfare", an invisible but deadly threat that could
    be used as effectively as missiles and bombs. 
    It may sound like science fiction, but around the world military planners
    are acknowledging that "cyber warfare" will play an important role in
    future conflicts. Not since the advent of nuclear bombs half a century ago
    has the world confronted weapons with such potential for altering the way
    in which warfare is waged. 
    Already secret army research departments in Russia and America are racing
    to perfect "logic bombs" and computer viruses designed to create havoc in
    an enemy country by destroying computer networks controlling weapons
    systems, financial transactions and even traffic. 
    Igor Ivanov, the Russian foreign minister, wrote to Kofi Annan, the United
    Nations secretary-general, last month warning that the effect of
    information weapons "may be comparable to that of weapons of mass
    In another development the Russians presented a proposal for
    "international legal regimes to prohibit the development, production or
    use of particu larly dangerous forms of information weapons" to the UN. 
    According to Peter Feaver, an information warfare expert at Duke
    University, North Carolina, the secrecy and lack of official guidelines
    surrounding the research are reminiscent of America's early years as a
    nuclear power "before the political leadership understood what nuclear
    weapons could do". A military official once told him: "If we waited around
    for political guidance, we wouldn't be able to do anything." 
    The full extent of America's information warfare capabilities is a closely
    guarded secret. According to some reports, the American military has been
    developing ways of implanting "worm viruses" in foreign computer networks
    to spread confusion. The Pentagon fears that Russia, China, Iraq and Libya
    have similar programs. 
    An announcement by President Bill Clinton in May of measures to build
    ramparts against the threat of a "digital Pearl Harbor" made no mention of
    America's capacity to conduct its own attacks. But George Tenet, director
    of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has told Congress: "We're not
    asleep at the switch in this regard." 
    He testified last year that information warfare techniques were already
    being deployed in the battles against terrorism and drugs. Computer hacker
    technology, he said, had been used to disrupt international money
    transfers between Arab businessmen supporting suspected terrorists. 
    Clinton has pledged to make America safe within five years from
    "asymmetrical" threats, a term used by experts to describe the theoretical
    danger of a relatively weak and insignificant adversary taking on - and
    defeating - a superpower with a few taps on a laptop computer. America's
    extreme dependence on computer technology makes it the most vulnerable
    nation on earth. At the same time, however, its technological advantage
    renders traditional adversaries wary. 
    Russian anxieties about being left behind in the information weapons race
    have been heightened by reports that the CIA has sabotaged some computer
    systems exported from America to the former Soviet Union. This involved
    putting "bugs" in computers that could be activated by CIA hackers
    thousands of miles away. 
    The Russians are pressing for a UN debate about information warfare,
    urging Annan to submit a report at the 54th session of the general
    assembly next year. 
    "We cannot permit the emergence of a fundamentally new area of
    international confrontation, which may lead to an escalation of the arms
    race based on the latest developments of the scientific and technological
    revolution," Ivanov wrote to Annan. 
    With its political instability, low military morale and lack of resources,
    Russia is in no position to compete with America in the field of high
    technology. It has already fallen behind in tackling the "millennium bug",
    expected to cripple computer systems at the start of the next century. 
    Russia's ineffectiveness in making its imported computer systems immune to
    the bug has raised fears in the White House that the Kremlin might
    misinterpret any disruption over the millennium as an information warfare
    attack and retaliate with nuclear weapons. 
    A US defence department report earlier this year described how an
    information warfare attack might unfold. It starts with an unexplained
    power blackout in a large city. Telephone systems across the country
    become paralysed. Freight and passenger trains collide. Civilian air
    traffic control systems go haywire. Malfunctioning pipeline-flow control
    mechanisms trigger oil refinery blasts. 
    As alarm spreads, "logic bombs" disable the financial system, disrupting
    money transfers and causing stocks to plunge on world exchanges. Automatic
    teller machines randomly credit or debit customers' accounts. Sensitive
    weapons systems malfunction. 
    "(An) information war has no front line," says the study. "Potential
    battlefields are anywhere." 
    In a military exercise involving senior Pentagon and intelligence
    officials last year, a scenario was mapped out in which India and Pakistan
    were on the verge of using nuclear weapons. 
    The participants were asked whether America should interfere, using
    information warfare techniques to alter the capability of both countries
    so that neither had a clear picture of the battlefield. The debate was
    SUNDAY TIMES 29/11/1998 P28
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