Remember the great, wide open, unregulated digital utopia that was the Internet ten years ago? The last vestige is now gone:
- President Bush has signed a secret directive ordering the government to develop, for the first time, national-level guidance for determining when and how the United States would launch cyber-attacks against enemy computer networks, according to administration officials.
Similar to strategic doctrine that has guided the use of nuclear weapons since World War II, the cyber-warfare guidance would establish the rules under which the United States would penetrate and disrupt foreign computer systems.
The United States has never conducted a large-scale, strategic cyber-attack, according to several senior officials. But the Pentagon has stepped up development of cyber-weapons, envisioning a day when electrons might substitute for bombs and allow for more rapid and less bloody attacks on enemy targets. Instead of risking planes or troops, military planners imagine soldiers at computer terminals silently invading foreign networks to shut down radars, disable electrical facilities and disrupt phone services.
Bush’s action highlights the administration’s keen interest in pursuing a new form of weaponry that many specialists say has great potential for altering the means of waging war, but that until now has lacked presidential rules for deciding the circumstances under which such attacks would be launched, who should authorize and conduct them and what targets would be considered legitimate.
….The full extent of the U.S. cyber-arsenal is among the most tightly held national security secrets, even more guarded than nuclear capabilities. Because of secrecy concerns, many of the programs remain known only to strictly compartmented groups, a situation that in the past has inhibited the drafting of general policy and specific rules of engagement.
In a first move last month to consult with experts from outside government, White House officials helped arrange a meeting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that attracted about 50 participants from academia and industry as well as government. But a number of participants expressed reservations about the United States engaging in cyber-attacks, arguing that the United States’ own enormous dependence on computer networks makes it highly vulnerable to counterattack.
“There’s a lot of inhibition over doing it,” said Harvey M. Sapolsky, an MIT professor who hosted the Jan. 22 session. “A lot of institutions and people are worried about becoming subject to the same kinds of attack in reverse.” [Washington Post]
Sounds like the doctrine of mutually-assured destruction to me – the word “nuclear” keeps coming up in the discussion.
Cyber-sleuths mi2g have thoughts on the matter:
- The mi2g Intelligence Unit feels that this development is a timely initiative and some aspects of it are totally in line with previous predictions that mi2g has made such as in the November 11, 2002 News Release. See attached. Attached please find comments from DK Matai, Chairman and CEO of mi2g:
“The asymmetric risk of Cyber Warfare is loaded against the economically prosperous and densely networked Western countries. Any state sponsoring the use of Cyber Warfare will have to look closely at retaliation and threats to its digitally connected government and business targets. When cyber attack blended with physical attack is used to disrupt or damage critical national infrastructure, there are counter-attacks which quickly follow suit.
Based on mi2g’s experience during the NATO-Serbia war in 1999, the blended attacks on Serbia’s telephone and power utilities were followed by counter-attacks on NATO Command and the US DoD’s eMail and internet servers. Targeted attacks on over 100 businesses in NATO member countries took place by hackers sympathetic to Serbia that were traced back to Russia and Eastern Europe. Post the accidential bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, a huge spike of attacks originated from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China on US government, academic and business targets.
In the case of the looming attack on Iraq, the concern in blending Cyber Warfare techniques would be the likely impact felt by the US, UK, Canada and Australia in particular from counter-cyber-attack which would inevitably follow suit from countries already known to originate significant hacker attacks against the West such as Morocco, Egypt, Eastern European and Central Asian countries, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan and Indonesia.”