May 26, 2009
The First War In CyberspaceBy Ed Timperlake
Cyberwar is now a fact of life in 21st Century wars. Actual and potential enemies of America already know the dimensions of Cyberwar and have moved into full combat.
With a real world combat engagement in Georgia and Estonia, the Russians have shown skill. Make no mistake; in certain arenas the Russians are smart and capable, and as the invasion of Georgia shows, ruthless. They have world class scientists and engineers. It is well known they are excellent Cyber Warfighters who have now also apparently harnessed their criminal hackers to augment their worldwide reach. This melding of Russian conventional military might with reported state sponsored criminal cyber syndicates is ominous and powerful.
The Peoples Republic of China's attacks in United States Cyberspace are well known to even casual-mail and Google users, where viruses linked by the media to Chinese sources circle and wait for openings. If the dollar value of the troves of information reported by media to be carted off by the Chinese were toted up, the number could be many billions, if not a trillion. If George Washington and Thomas Jefferson could visit America in 2009 they would call the Chinese attacks Acts Of War.
America is awakened. The Pentagon is standing up a new Department of Defense major combat command This new Cyber Command will be headed by Lieutenant General Keith Alexander, who currently commands the National Security Agency (nickname "no such agency"). He will be promoted to four stars and be the first Commanding General of the Cyber Command to be Headquartered at Ft Meade, Maryland.
General Alexander, a warrior trained at West Point, has a well earned reputation as a visionary in 21st Century Warfare and the reach and power of technology. As Director of Technology Assessment, International Technology Security in the Office of the Secretary of Defense I visited and worked with the Army's Intelligence and Security Command then headed by Major General Alexander. It was clear that MG Alexander knew how to maneuver in cyberspace in cutting-edge ways.
If confirmed to his new position General Alexander will be standing on the shoulders of a giant -- his visionary fellow West Pointer Mike Wynne. Secretary of the Air Force Wynne launched the USAF Cyber Command, which created the template and many components of the new DOD Cyber Command. Secretary Wynne pronounced with clarity that Cyberspace is a war fighting domain like Air, Sea, Land, and Space, where Intelligence operations, like training, supply, and Medical operations are one component at work in the Domain
The fundamental principle of American Cyber Doctrine must emerge with focuses on Law Enforcement and war fighting, returning the Intelligence Community, which in the last century
extended into the Internet, to their primary role of cyber intelligence gathering and some cyber operations. This return to basics by the IC will be beneficial, since they completely missed the impending collapse of the old Soviet Empire and gave no apparent warning of the Russian attack on Georgia.
The two overall functions in Cyberspace are Law Enforcement and Investigation, the mission assigned to the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and War Fighting, assigned to Cyber Command. Euphemistically, it can be said the first two are engaged in Dot.Gov and Dot.Com Cyberspace and DOD warriors fighting and defending our country from foreign attack are engaged in Dot.Mil Cyberspace.
The Wall Street Journal in a headline written on August 12 2008 perfectly captures the 21st Century warfare that the Russians have apparently employed in their invasion of Georgia: "Georgia States Computers hit by Cyber attacks. " The world has seen an opening chapter on how Russian cyber war capabilities are combined with Russian conventional forces. This chapter of war is being written in blood.
In our 1999 book "Red Dragon Rising" co-author William C. Triplett II and I postulated an electronic "Pearl Harbor" with The PRC attacking Taiwan. Using all their military capabilities, for example airborne and seaborne infantry, tactical air, naval armada, other elements of the attack could include: Surprise attack, Internet attack ("Cyber Attack was not in the lexicon then), Psychological Operations, and all tools of attack. That scenario now is at the center of US war planning.
The Chinese Peoples Liberation Army can in 2009 launch a massive Cyber assault on Taiwan. Some command and control networks would be destroyed while others would be deliberately spared so they could be manipulated from the inside. Radio and television signals can be jammed and false images of calls from Political Leaders advocating surrender broadcast. Banking systems and specific accounts can be targeted. Information war could also deliberately leave some radar signals intact to warn of "virtual assaults" feeding the confusion and bringing command and control systems to a halt. Finally, Fifth columns at home and abroad can spread rumors and try and keep Washington confused.
America will ultimately win any Cyber engagement if we keep our focus and dedicate sufficient resources. Mike Wynne knew this: It can take a while for the American military to get it right, but once warriors are recruited trained and focused we have the best military the world has ever seen.
Air Force Cyber Doctrine had an extremely attractive feature, and the new DOD Cyber Command can build on it: the US Cyber Command is a military fighting force that would interest 18-year-old men and women some who are already the most computer savvy individuals in the world. These young American men and women, who really enjoy Wired Magazine, have reached adulthood with an instinctive know how on how to use computers -- for good or ill. They are perfect warriors in this brave new world.
A great American General, later President, Andrew "Andy" Jackson in the War of 1812 understood the power of innovative American battle tactics. General Jackson augmented his regulars at the Battle of New Orleans with frontier sharpshooters and pirates. The poor Red Coats did not know what hit them.
A US Cyber Command can attract our best Cyberspace sharpshooters along with swashbuckling Cyber Buccaneers. Russia, the Peoples Republic of China, Iran and others will soon have a cold dose of reality that in awaking the American sleeping giant Cyber attacks can run two ways.