April 7, 2008

U.S. Takes Offensive Stance in Cyberwarfare

In the somewhat near future, the need for bombs in warfare may be replaced with a more modern weapon: the internet. Not only are U.S. military officials prepared defensively for technological attacks, but they are developing ways to go on the offensive. Day by day, the nation's capabilities for cyberwarfare are escalating.

In New York on Friday, the local Association for Intelligence Officers, a nonprofit group for intelligence agents and their supporters met and discussed the possibilities.

Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder Jr., the leader of the Air Force's cyberoperations command questioned the definition of war in the realm of cyberspace. He pointed out that in the same way conventional attacks require a public declaration of war, virtual attacks will not occur until an act of war is constituted, and they will have to be declared in a similar fashion. And no attacks will be made until boundaries have been determined.

According to Elder, diverting and killing data packets which threaten the nation's systems will be the main venues of cyberwarefare initially. The U.S. already utilized basic forms of cyberattacks during the earlier portions of the war on Iraq; these include using network attacks to hinder Iraqi ground units from communicating with one another as well as electronically jamming Iraqi military systems. Since then, offensive capabilities have improved.

By October, the U.S. Air Force is forecasting the establishment of a Cyber Command for waging cyberspace battles, due to the fact that the military continues to rely more and more on networks to communicate and coordinate operations.

Enemy hackers could potentially break into any vulnerable systems that run infrastructures all over the U.S and shut them down. They could also shut down civilian and military websites using a "denial-of-service attack" which floods servers with fake traffic so that legitimate visitors cannot access the sites.

Since 2001 Chinese hackers have been organizing attacks and defacing U.S. websites to oppose the "imperialism" of the U.S. and Japan. The government of China may have even used the internet to break into computers at the Defense Department.

At Friday's meeting, Elder drew up a plan for cyberattack defense initiatives. He said that the military needs to show that typical wartime operations could continue sans network functioning by identifying "what if" scenarios and determining the types of backup capabilities needed to master them.

Identification tactics are also being developed in order to discover who is attacking even if the hacker is trying to hide his personal information or whereabouts. With a correct ID, the U.S. can make a credible vengeance threat.