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[infowar.de] U.S. builds up cyberwar arsenal
November 8, 2001, 6:45 a.m. PT
WASHINGTON -- Even as it fights in Afghanistan with bombs and guns and
allies on horseback, the U.S. military is gearing up to use computers
and code as potentially decisive weapons in the next phases of its
The goal would be to disable air defense systems, scramble enemy
logistics and perhaps infect software through tactics being honed by a
joint task force set up in 1999 under the Colorado Springs,
Colo.-based U.S. Space Command.
If Afghanistan were home to anything but one of the world's least
computer-reliant societies, U.S. forces might have kicked off the
campaign they began Oct. 7 with keyboard-launched strikes to disrupt
the Taliban militia's command and control.
But a cyberblitz would have had scant impact on Afghanistan, one of
only a handful of nations that never even bothered to touch base with
a United Nations network that prepped governments for feared Year 2000
"They're just not connected," said information security strategist
Bruce McConnell, who tried unsuccessfully to include the Taliban in
the International Y2K Cooperation Center he headed under U.N. aegis.
In addition, since the start of the U.S.-led campaign against Afghan
protectors of terror suspect Osama bin Laden, "we've seen absolutely
no indication of terrorists attacking via cyberspace," Space Command
spokesman Army Maj. Barry Venable said.
The U.S. military has been working on tools that could wreak
electronic havoc on countries accused of harboring terrorists as well
as on ways of defending global networks against cyberattack.
"Transformation cannot wait," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said
last week, using military jargon for souping up U.S. forces to meet
21st-century threats and to cash in on high-tech covert capabilities.
"We must act now to prepare for the next war, even as we wage the
current war against terrorism," he wrote in a Nov. 1 The Washington
Post guest column.
After the Sept. 11 blitz that turned civilian airliners into missiles,
killing some 4,800 people, the United States must plan for new and
different foes who will rely on "surprise, deception and asymmetric
weapons," or those meant to overcome the lopsided U.S. edge in
conventional arms, Rumsfeld said. "To deal with those future
surprises, we must move rapidly now to improve our ability to protect
U.S. information systems and ensure persistent surveillance, tracking
and rapid engagement of an adversary's forces and capabilities," he
The Defense Department has been readying to make cyberblitzes on enemy
computer networks a standard tool of war, Air Force Gen. Richard
Myers, now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said earlier this
year as he left the Space Command.
Army Gen. Henry Shelton, Myers' predecessor as the top U.S. military
officer, confirmed that the United States had jabbed electronically
into Serbian computer networks throughout the 78-day NATO bombing
campaign over Kosovo in 1999.
Unspecified hostile countries have probed U.S. computer networks for
ways to spark mayhem in wartime, Richard Clarke, the White House
National Security Council staff coordinator for security,
infrastructure protection and counter-terrorism, said in June.
"This is not theoretical. It's real," Clarke said at the time. He was
tapped by President Bush on Oct. 16 to head a new senior advisory
board on critical infrastructure protection--in other words, the
country's vital communications, transportation, food and health care
CIA and Pentagon war games already feature foes using bits and bytes,
not bombs or ballistic missiles, to attack U.S. financial
institutions, communications hubs and spy satellites.
Guerrilla forces are bound to turn to cyberweapons to wage their
battles in an increasingly networked future, just as political
activists have used denial-of-service attacks and Web page defacements
to amplify their messages.
"As we harden our bridges, airports and other infrastructure,
terrorists are going to seek the path of least resistance," said
Steven Roberts, a computer security expert at Georgetown University.
"That means they're likely to embrace information warfare tools such
as viruses, Trojan Horses and password crackers."
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