Tue, 28 Nov 2000 14:19:24 -0500
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November 22, 2000
Web posted at: 9:35 a.m. EST (1435 GMT)
by Ellen Messmer
(IDG) -- The U.S. military has a new mission: Be
ready to launch a cyberattack against potential
adversaries, some of whom are stockpiling cyberweapons.
Such an attack would likely involve launching
massive distributed denial-of-service assaults, unleashing crippling computer viruses or Trojans, and jamming the enemy's computer systems through
electronic radio-frequency interference.
An order from the National Command Authority - backed by President Clinton and Secretary of Defense William Cohen - recently instructed the military to gear up to wage cyberwar.
The ability of the U.S. to conduct such warfare "doesn't exist today," according to a top Army official speaking at a conference in Arlington, Va., last week.
"We see three emerging threats: ballistic missiles, cyberwarfare and space control," said Lt. Gen. Edward Anderson, deputy commander in chief at U.S.
Space Command, which was recently assigned the task of creating a cyberattack strategy. "Cyberwarfare is what we might think of as attacks against digital ones and zeros."
Anderson spoke about the Space Command's
cyberwarfare responsibilities at the National
Strategies and Capabilities for a Changing World
conference. The event was organized by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and
Diplomacy and the U.S. Army. The conference
attracted military top brass and international
Anderson told attendees that the U.S. Space
Command, the agency in charge of satellite
communications, has begun to craft a computer
network attack strategy. This strategy would
detail actions to be followed by the Unified
Commanders in Chief (CINC) if the president
and the secretary of defense order a cyber
strike. The CINCs are senior commanders in the
Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines deploying
U.S. forces around the world.
The information-warfare strategy will be
detailed in a defense plan called "OPLAN 3600"
that Anderson said will require "unprecedented
cooperation with commercial enterprises and
There's no set deadline for completing OPLAN 3600, Anderson told Network World. But he noted that other countries, including Russia, Israel and China, are further along in building their information-warfare capabilities.
Anderson said the U.S. may end up with a new type of weaponry for launching massive distributed denial-of-service attacks and computer viruses. "The Chinese recently indicated they are already moving along with this," he added.
In addition to the possibility of cybercombat between nations, the military acknowledges that terrorists without the backing of any country can potentially use cyberweapons to disrupt U.S. telecommunications or banking systems that
are largely electronic.
That's one reason the U.S. Space Command is joining with the FBI to build an information-warfare strategy.
"This requires a close relationship between military and law enforcement," said Michael Vatis, an FBI official who also spoke at the conference. He noted that the FBI will have to help determine if any cyberattack suffered by U.S. military or business entities calls for a military or law enforcement response.
"The Internet is ubiquitous. It allows attacks from anywhere in the world.
Attackers can loop in from many different Internet providers," said Vatis, who
noted that a cyberattack can include espionage using computer networks.
"It could start across the street but appear to be coming from China. And something that might look like a hacker attack could be the beginning of cyberwarfare," he added.
Vatis said the growing bullets-and-guns conflict in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians, with Islamic supporters elsewhere, is being accompanied by cyberattacks from each side against the other. It's serious enough, he said, that the FBI issued an alert about it to the U.S. Space Command, giving U.S. forces warning that the action on the cyber front could
affect them, too.
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