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[infowar.de] Usatoday 28.03.07: Military beefs up Internet arsenal
By Jim Michaels, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON ? The U.S. military is quietly expanding capabilities to attack
terrorist computer networks, including websites that glorify insurgent
attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, military officials and experts say.
The move comes as al-Qaeda and other groups fighting in Iraq and elsewhere
have expanded their activities on the Internet and increased the
sophistication and volume of their videos and messages. Much of the
material is designed to raise money and recruit fighters for Iraq.
"You should not let them operate uncontested" on the Internet and elsewhere
in cyberspace, said Marine Brig. Gen. John Davis, who heads a military
command located at the National Security Agency. The command was
established to develop ways to attack computer networks.
Davis and other officials declined to say whether the military has actually
attacked any networks, which would require presidential authorization. The
techniques are highly classified.
Pentagon contract documents show the military asks companies to develop a
"full spectrum ? of computer network attack techniques." Run by the Air
Force Research Laboratory, this program aims to spend $40 million over four
years, documents show.
The growth in offensive capabilities signals a shift in military thinking
from just monitoring terrorist websites for intelligence to attacking those
"The offensive is increasingly on leaders' minds," said John Arquilla, a
professor at the Naval Postgraduate School who also works for the Defense
Department on cyberwar issues.
Some officials say cyberattacks can result in losing critical intelligence.
"You always have the built-in tension between the operator who wants to
destroy the target and the intelligence officer who wants to use the target
to gain more information," said Lani Kass, director of the Air Force's
cyberspace task force.
"Our opponents do a heck of a lot more than just watch us in cyberspace,"
Davis said. "They are acting in cyberspace. We need to develop options so
that we can ? dominate cyberspace."
Cyberattacks can take different forms, including eliminating terrorist
websites and creating doubts among insurgents about their networks'
security, said Arquilla, who favors an offensive approach he calls a
"virtual scorched-earth policy."
Armed groups in Iraq videotape nearly all of their attacks on U.S. forces
to help magnify their impact.
"Everything they do in Iraq and Afghanistan is geared toward propaganda,"
said Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., who's on the House Armed Services Committee.
The videos and messages are "getting more and more professional," said
Andretta Summerville of iDefense, a private contractor that monitors
terrorist activity on the Internet.
Some sites find recruits and push "them toward a pipeline that ends in
suicide attacks," said Lt. Col. Matthew McLaughlin, a spokesman for Central
Command, which runs the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Attacking websites may have limited value, said Ben Venzke of IntelCenter,
a contractor that monitors terrorist websites and Internet forums. "The
problem is the nature of the Internet itself," he said. "It can always come
back up in 10 seconds."
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