[ISN] White House Officials Debating Rules for Cyberwarfare

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Aug 21 2002 - 23:23:45 PDT

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    Forwarded from: William Knowles <wkat_private>
    By Ariana Eunjung Cha and Jonathan Krim
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Thursday, August 22, 2002; Page A02 
    The Bush administration is stepping up an internal debate on the rules
    of engagement for cyberwarfare as evidence mounts that foreign
    governments are surreptitiously exploring our digital infrastructure,
    a top official said yesterday.
    Richard A. Clarke, head of the Office of Cyberspace Security, said the
    government has begun to regard nation-states rather than terrorist
    groups as the most dangerous threat to this country's computer
    security after several suspicious break-ins involving federal
    "There are terrorist groups that are interested. We now know that al
    Qaeda was interested. But the real major threat is from the
    information-warfare brigade or squadron of five or six countries,"  
    Clarke said in an interview with Washington Post editors and
    The White House last week called in Gregory J. Rattray, an Air Force
    officer and author of "Strategic Warfare in Cyberspace," to accelerate
    the process of sorting out the legal and ethical issues surrounding
    such attacks.
    In one series of incidents in 1999 and 2000, unidentified hackers
    downloaded scores of "sensitive but unclassified" internal documents
    from the Los Alamos and Livermore national laboratories and the
    Defense Department. Investigators traced the electronic trail back to
    an unnamed foreign country; officially, the government there denied
    being involved, but the intrusions suddenly stopped, he said.
    U.S. officials also believe it is possible that a foreign government
    helped create the Code Red virus that took control of 314,000 servers
    last year and directed them to attack White House computers.
    For the past nine months, Clarke -- who reports both to Homeland
    Security Director Tom Ridge and national security adviser Condoleezza
    Rice -- has been preparing a plan that will involve the government,
    private companies and average citizens in defending against future
    attacks. This national strategy will be outlined next month in Silicon
    Among the recommendations is that Internet service providers for cable
    and DSL companies package their faster always-on services with
    "firewalls," or security software that repels outside intrusion and
    monitors what information is sent out to the Internet. Clarke said
    many people have connected to the Internet through such services in
    recent years without being told their computers are open to intruders.
    "Our goal is not to prevent cyberattacks but to withstand them,"  
    Clarke said.
    Clarke said the country has made some progress in shoring up its
    defenses since Sept. 11 attacks but it will be years before it can fix
    the numerous vulnerabilities that have existed on the Internet since
    its creation. He said the government also is assessing whether some
    critical computers should be disconnected from the Internet or run on
    a private network.
    Federal agencies have increased their information technology spending
    to $4.5 billion in the fiscal year beginning in October, up 64 percent
    from the previous year. Major software companies such as Microsoft
    Corp. and Oracle Corp. have made security a top priority. But
    companies in other sectors, especially telecommunications, have been
    slower to respond because of financial difficulties, Clarke said.
    Meanwhile, Clarke said, more and more countries, especially poorer
    ones, are coming to see the advantage of cyberwarfare over traditional
    warfare. Such efforts are less expensive, costing thousands of
    dollars, compared with billions for a nuclear weapons program.  
    Cyberattacks also are easier to conceal.
    The specter of a more significant cyberattacks from enemy countries
    has pushed the U.S. government to explore how far it should go in its
    own use of technology in war.
    The U.S. military's use of cyberwarfare so far has been limited mostly
    to defensive efforts and information collection.
    After the NATO campaign in Kosovo in 1999, Gen. Henry H. Shelton,
    chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, disclosed that the military had
    jammed Serbian computer networks. But Clarke said the United States
    has yet to engage in a major attack that damages other systems.
    Clarke describes the situation today as analogous to the dilemma the
    U.S. government faced several decades ago when it had nuclear
    capability but lacked rules on when or how to use the weapons.
    Under the Geneva Convention, the operative international law of war,
    attacks on noncombatants are prohibited. Thus, a cyberattack on the
    banking system or electricity grid of a country believed to be helping
    terrorists would raise unresolved legal issues because of the damage
    it might inflict on innocent people.
    "It's okay to blow up a bridge and kill everyone, including civilians"  
    if the bridge is believed to serve a military purpose, said Mark
    Rasch, a technology security consultant and former Justice Department
    prosecutor. "But it might not be okay to hack into computer systems"  
    that are not obviously serving a military purpose.
    And it could be particularly hard to control the impact of an
    electronic attack. For example, any virus the military might unleash
    on its enemies would probably spread beyond the target because so many
    of the world's computers are linked to the Internet.
    Some officials in the Bush administration also are concerned about
    creating dangerous precedents by launching the first major Internet
    attack given that the United States could have with more to lose than
    any opponent in such a conflict.
    American businesses and governmental entities depend on technology to
    a far greater degree than do relatively undeveloped countries and
    loose-knit terrorist groups -- and retaliation by could be a major
    "We live in the largest glass house on the street when it comes to
    that," said Daniel T. Kuehl, a professor at National Defense
    University, an education arm of the military.
    Staff writer Vernon Loeb contributed to this report.
    "Communications without intelligence is noise;  Intelligence
    without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
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