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CYBER WAR Rex Hughes

Bts,Bytes and Bullets

The recent decision by the United States to create the worlds rst cyberspace command has enormous implications for the future of cyber warfare. As the sole hyperpower, the US stands a good chance of establishing the rules of the game. But, as the current global information and internet hub, it could also lose the most in a major onslaught. While no one can predict the potential for an electronic attack an ePearl Harbour or an e-911 the thought keeps a fair number of Pentagon planners up late at night. Some cyber experts even speculate that a devastating attack on a national power grid could turn a developed country into a third world nation. Information highways need defence just as sea lanes once did.


country of Estonia has taken great pride in becoming one of Europes most wired nations. But its advanced information infrastructure was turned against it earlier this year in a coordinated cyber attack on governmental and nancial infrastructure. There was speculation that the episode was designed to punish Estonian authorities for their removal of a controversial Soviet Second World War monument. The statue to an unknown Soviet soldier was relocated from the centre of the capital Tallinn to a war cemetery. When ethnic Russians protested by rioting and looting, many Estonians claimed this was prompted by Russia which had denounced the relocation. Ofcial Russia denied state involvement but, despite this, the European parliament passed a resolution in May stating that a Russian government internet provider address may have been involved in the network disruption. While vocal and physical outbursts abated, the internet onslaught did not. Some Estonian government sites were inaccessible for weeks. Attackers bombarded and clogged websites with bogus streams of data in what is known as distributed denial of service. Employing botnets as


REX HUGHES is with the Cambridge-MIT Communications Network at Wolfson College, Cambridge University.

raiders is a common tactic with chains of computers hijacked by viruses unknown to the owners. Often, routers and switches reach their upper design limits as occurred in Estonia from what appear to be orchestrated assaults. Although hacking and crippling of online sites are not unknown in the commercial and social-political worlds, the attacks on Estonia, effectively shutting down the national communications infrastructure, were on a greater scale than internet sabotage in any other country. The impact of the attack reverberated far beyond national borders. The European Union (EU), NATO, the United States and Israel responded with expertise to assist Estonia in investigative and tactical response. In July an emergency team from the US Department of Homeland Security travelled there to provide forensic analysis, and the US Secret Service offered training on incident response and investigation. As a newly admitted EU and NATO state, Estonias growing multilateral ties provided new privileges under European and NATO law. Because the attack threatened vital civil and governmental information infrastructure, the incident prompted NATO to consider whether Article V of its charter, the mutual defence treaty, could or should have been invoked. For NATO and Pentagon planners, the central question was whether the world had witnessed the rst state sponsored, twenty-rst century cyber attack on another nation? And if so, what should be done to defend against future onslaughts?

and the world wide web. Thirdly, China and Russia have repeatedly demonstrated an ability to penetrate US military information systems successfully. Since the US has the largest public and private communications networks, its systems and those of its allies are considered very valueable targets. The Pentagon is estimated to operate over three million computers in about sixty-ve countries, plus more than thirty internal networks. While nerdy hackers have emerged as a frequent nuisances, RAND analysts John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt warned in their 2002 work Networks and Netwars: Terror, Crime and Militancy, that a new political command and control may arise from information-age dictatorships that will skilfully exploit the new technologies.

Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the US Air Force in September, the Pentagon announced plans to establish the worlds rst cyberspace command in the 8th Air Force at Barksdale, Louisiana. Its rst commander Lieutenant General Robert Elder Junior envisages it as a global service for operations connected through cyberspace. He does not shy away from the idea of his Mighty Eighth command confronting cyber warfare as he speaks of the Air Forces cyber warghting capabilities and warghting missions. Establishing the provisional cyberspace command, US Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne said, The aim is to develop a major command that stands alongside Air Force Space Command and Air Combat Command as the provider of forces that the president, combatant commanders and the American people can rely on for preserving the freedom of access and commerce, in air, space and now cyberspace. Commercially, cyberspace is at the forefront of western neoliberal markets. US military strategist Dr Lani Kass calls it the neural network of the US. Thus, cross-domain dominance, as she explains, offers sovereign options with the domains of the sea, space, air, land, and cyberspace falling under the seven Ds of military command: detect, deter,

Since 2001, deep in the Pentagon, a small team of military visionaries has been quietly laying the ground work for the transformation of cyberspace into a premier warghting domain. The principal aim is to a military arena on a par with land, sea and air. With last years publication of the National Military Strategy for Cyberspace Operations, the US Department of Defense codied its understanding of cyberspace warghting domain. It is dened as a domain characterised by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum to store, modify, and exchange data via networked systems and associated physical infrastructures. According to Pentagon ofcials, several key developments have prompted a more focused approach on integrating cyberspace into global battleeld strategy. Firstly, twenty-rst century information society is highly networked and dependent on advanced information systems, thus presenting new tactical and strategic vulnerabilities. Secondly, transnational non-state actors and militant groups have mastered many levels of information attacks and psy-ops using the internet

International Events November

NOVEMBER 7 EU Commission reports on Turkeys membership application NOVEMBER 7 Trial begins in The Hague of Serb nationalist Vojislav Seselj NOVEMBER 18 ASEAN summit in Singapore NOVEMBER 23 Lebanese President Emile Lahouds term expires NOVEMBER 24 General Election in Australia

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deceive, disrupt, defend, deny, defeat. In other words she says: without cyber dominance, operations in all domains [are] at risk with global effects at the speed of light. An annual US European Command exercise known as Combined Endeavor is conducted though NATOs Partnership for Peace. Its aim is to establish systems compatibility and interoperability for future multi-national operations, among these is Communications Information Systems testing.

is transmitted through the internet and other broadband networks. In addition to the potential disruption of information and trade, utility networks for power, fuel, and water may also be vulnerable to digital network assaults. The nearly complete dominance of the internet protocol in global information has increased the risk to national and transnational information and control systems worldwide. Nearly all commercial and military information systems use it for data transmission.

The liberal economic order has been built on the free ow of international commerce. Similar thinking was expressed in the mid-nineteenth century Manchester Creed that advocated free trade over protectionism, with the ideal that open and expanded trade would provide little reason for warmongering. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries responsibility for keeping open the trade shipping lanes lay with the Dutch and British governments. In the last century, this eventually transferred to the US, its role reinforced following the Second World War. For over a hundred years, US Naval strategy was largely shaped by the writings of Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, who claimed that a strong navy was the key to a strong foreign policy. His doctrine of sea denial versus sea control inuenced thinking well beyond the US. In the Second World War, Germany largely practiced a such sea denial strategy by sinking allied transport; the British and Americans applied a sea control approach in their growing battles of the Atlantic. The free world of allied and friendly nations subsequently extended maritime trade protection to air and space. Current US military planners have attempted to adapt Mahans doctrine to cyberspace in the form of information denial and information control. Recent Chinese and Russian inltration of Pentagon, Whitehall, and Budesregierung systems could be seen as attempts at information-denial, whereas US controls of core internet infrastructure might be viewed as an information-dominance strategy. In a global information economy, it could be argued that keeping the internet open for business and free from major disruption is now on a par with keeping the sea and air lanes open. While ocean routes remain vital means of commerce, the seas role in transporting value has been surpassed by air. In future, it is likely that cyber transport will also close much of the air value gap as more business and information

In a recently published paper, at www.rstmonday.org, Arquilla and Ronfeldt see twenty-rst century networked politics shifting from realpolitik to nopolitik or nospolitik from the nosphere concept coined by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin from the Greek nos for mind. Rather than the hard power of the former, the latter relies on the soft power of knowledge and networking. Arquilla and Ronfeldt see states as the paramount actors in the international system but stronger states work conjointly with NGOs and other civil nonstate actors. They accept alternative terms cyberpolitik, netpolitik, or infopolitik. Thus, the process that balances relations among the state, the market, and civilsociety leads actors around the globe to choose nopolitk over realpolitik. As the US brings its new Cyberspace Command online, other nations, especially China and Russia are expected to respond with similar military structures. With the Great Powers preparing to ght a net war, senior policymakers should consider the heady question of how to avoid a new cyber arms race. If such Powers leave too much strategic ambiguity as to what is legally and morally permissible in cyber war, then how will they know if the conventional or nuclear threshold has been crossed in a major crisis? One Russian ofcial has gone as far as to speculate that a crippling cyber attack on Moscows networked infrastructure could very well lead to a nuclear response. In order to address these issues, international society should begin to explore whether the current laws of war are adequate for the types of future military engagements expected in the battle of cyberspace. Now may be the time for the UN, the Hague, or another neutral international body to regulate cyber warfare before a virtual attack escalates from an exchange of virtual bits and bytes to real bombs and bullets.


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