There was significant news this week about the U.S. and Israel making major inroads with cyberwar capabilities.
First, the New York Times today (1 June 2011) writes about alleged Bush and Obama administrations’ “increasingly sophisticated [cyber] attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities”–sabotaging as many as a 1000 centrifuges, delaying their deadly program by as much as 2 years, as well as conducting cyber espionage to strengthen our negotiating hand.
The cyber offensive program code-named Olympic Games allegedly involved cyber weapons codeveloped by the United States’ National Security Agency and Israel’s advanced cyber corps, Unit 8200.
The malware included such programs such as Stuxnet, Duqu, and The Flame and according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (30 May 2012) may date as far back to 2007.
These cyber attacks have been viewed as the best hope of slowing the Iranian’s sinister nuclear program while economic sanctions have a chance to bite.
Additionally cyber attacks were viewed preferentially over using traditional kinetic military options and potentially causing a regional war in the Middle-east.
At the same time, the use of cyber weapons is a double-edged sword–if we use it on others, this may encourage cyber proliferation and it’s eventual use on us–and as the NYT writes, “no country’s infrastructure is more dependent on computer systems and thus, more vulnerable to attack than the United States.”
Therefore, it was good to see in The Washington Post yesterday (30 May 2012) that the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is pursuing Plan X–“ambitious efforts to develop technologies to improve its cyberwarfare capabilities, launch effective attacks, and withstand likely retaliation.”
“If they achieve it, they’re talking about being able to dominate the digital battlefield just like they do the traditional battlefield.”
The “five-year $110 million research program” is seeking to accomplish three major goals in arming U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade for cyber war:
1) Mapping Cyberspace–create realtime mapping of the entire cyberspace and all its devices for commanders to use in identifying targets and disabling them and seeing enemy attacks.
2) Building A Survivable O/S–Just like DARPA invented the Internet as a survivable messaging and communication system, so too, they want to develop a battle-ready operating system for our computers (like a tank) “capable of launching attacks and surviving counterattacks.”
3) Develop (Semi-)Autonomous Cyber Weapons–so cyber commanders can engage in “speed-of-light attacks and counterattacks using preplanned scenarios that do not involve human operators manually typing in code.”
Just to be clear, with cyber warfare, we are not just talking about computers taking out other computers–and end there, but rather this is where computers take out computers that are controlling critical infrastructure such as the power grid, transportation systems, financial systems, supply chain, command, control, and communications, weapons systems, and more.
“Cyberwar could be more humane than pulverizing [targets]…with bombs,” but I doubt it will be.
Imagine, virtually everything you know coming to a complete halt–utter disruption and pandemonium–as well as the physical effects of that which would ensue–that’s what cyber war is all about–and it is already on the way.
So as, Richard M. George, a former NSA cyberdefense official stated: “Other countries are preparing for a cyberwar. If we’re not pushing the envelope in cyber, somebody else will.”
It is good to see us getting out in front of this cyber security monster–let’s hope, pray, and do everything we can to stay on top as the cyberspace superpower.
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal taken of mural at National Defense University, Washington D.C.)