April 28, 2009

In Cyberweapons Race, Questions Linger Over U.S. Offensive Capability - Series - NYTimes.com

In Cyberweapons Race, Questions Linger Over U.S. Offensive Capability - Series - NYTimes.com

The prospects of cyberwar are chilling. But the U.S. seems to fully understand the threat even though we may not yet have settled on the policies to guide our actions.

In any event, we seem to be devoting the necessary resources to both the offensive and defensive measures to successfully engage any enemy.

This is a non-stop effort. I certainly hope the very best minds are targeted at this endeavor. But think of the awesome risk we create when we have key people who know extraordinary details of this necessarily top-secret work. How can we ever insure the loyalty of our cyber geniuses? The very best minds tend to be quirky at best and potentially vulnerable to the lures on the enemy. Will we isolate them as did the British who created a top secret, highly successful code-breaking cadre in WWII?

“The fortress model simply will not work for cyber,” said one senior military officer who has been deeply engaged in the debate for several years. “Someone will always get in.”

That thinking has led to a debate over whether lessons learned in the nuclear age — from the days of “mutually assured destruction” — apply to cyberwar.

"...But in cyberwar, it is hard to know where to strike back, or even who the attacker might be. Others have argued for borrowing a page from Mr. Bush’s pre-emption doctrine by going into foreign computers to destroy malicious software before it is unleashed into the world’s digital bloodstream. But that could amount to an act of war, and many argue it is a losing game, because the United States is more dependent on a constantly running Internet system than many of its potential adversaries, and therefore could suffer more damage in a counterattack.

In a report scheduled to be released Wednesday, the National Research Council will argue that although an offensive cybercapability is an important asset for the United States, the nation is lacking a clear strategy, and secrecy surrounding preparations has hindered national debate, according to several people familiar with the report.

The advent of Internet attacks — especially those suspected of being directed by nations, not hackers — has given rise to a new term inside the Pentagon and the National Security Agency: “hybrid warfare....”

It describes a conflict in which attacks through the Internet can be launched as a warning shot — or to pave the way for a traditional attack.
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