PREPARING FOR CYBER WARFARE
By Geoff Metcalf
May 7, 2009
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” --Benjamin Franklin
Several years ago I suggested the new generation ‘special’ warriors would not be products of Fort Benning, Fort Bragg, Quantico and Coronado, but rather would come from Silicon Valley garages, colleges, and universities.
We will always need a pointy end of the spear and hard chargers to do dangerous stuff in remote venues. However, in the future, preparing the battlefield will be ‘different’.
Ancient warriors used archers.
• Roman Legions used siege engines and fire.
• Cannons and mortars replaced arrows.
• WWI saw poison gas.
• Adjusted fire of artillery morphed into laser designated weapons and GPS ‘smart bombs’.
However, as our military’s dependence on computers and satellites increases, so does our vulnerability to cyber attacks to command and control through assaults on computer networks and satellites.
Last year I wrote, “An assault on the American satellite system in a barrage of anti-satellite weapons would immediately and significantly traumatize American troops, planes and ships around the world. The global economy would probably catastrophically collapse, along with air travel and communications.”
The Chicoms have led the way in sophisticated cyber warfare. Although the U.S. has kinda/sorta developed assets in the Air Force and through NSA, we have lacked the structure and organization to combat cyber warfare as the real threat it is…or, (hopefully) the Pentagon was just not telling us what they were doing. Time Magazine did an excellent piece in 1995.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates reportedly intends to nominate the director of the National Security Agency to head a new Pentagon Cyber Command. The new Pentagon Cyber Command will be tasked with coordinating computer-network defense and direct U.S. cyber-attack operations. It is about time…
I was grousing about the cyber threat (and specifically the Chinese) a decade ago. Despite the lack of headlines, some incremental baby steps have occurred.
In March 2004 the Pentagon announced the formation of an Information Operations team—the Network Attack Support Staff. The purpose was “to streamline the military’s cyber attack capabilities.” The aim was to create an “interface between the combatant commanders and the intelligence community.”
Now, in the wake of rising government concerns about attacks on U.S. networks (albeit it late in coming), we are finally doing something substantive. The new command, according to a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal will run military cyber security operations and provide support to civil authorities.
About eight years ago during an interview with The Washington Times, Bill Gertz, told me about a piece he read in the Liberation Army Daily, “which is the official newspaper of the People's Liberation Army. And it said they are making great strides toward developing a separate service that will engage in information warfare. That is using computer systems to attack other computer systems primarily against their main enemy. That is us.”
It is a good thing that Gates is finally establishing a long needed military command to deal with cyber warfare. However, there are also inherent challenges to the new venture. Currently, the Department of Homeland Security is tasked with securing the government's nonmilitary networks. Potential turf battles between dueling government monsters could create more problems that it solves…and problem solving must be job one.
A gaggle of books have been written cyber threats. See Amazon here.
The new cyber command is needed because "our increasing dependency on cyberspace, alongside a growing array of cyber threats and vulnerabilities, adds a new element of risk to our national security." No, that is not from a 1999 Geoff Metcalf column but from the latest government memo.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Gates is "planning to make changes to our command structure to better reflect the increasing threat posed by cyber warfare."
Gen. Alexander tried to chill concerns about NSA's role in domestic cyber security in a recent speech in San Francisco.
"We need to dispel the rumors," he said, stressing NSA didn't want to run all the government's cyber security operations. NSA has "tremendous technical capabilities," he said.
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Beyond the inevitable dangers of not knowing what we don’t know, integrating cyber threat assets is a challenge that must be cured sooner rather than later. Government power we are told is a direct function of budgets. Turf battles over Excel spreadsheet line items cannot be allowed to undermine the very real imperative of staffing assets.
The Chicoms don’t have those challenges and they have a big head start…