Cyber War attacks happening more often as rogue states flex muscles

Dave Masko's picture

EUGENE, Oregon – It’s not science fiction, say Cyber War experts who report a recent “string of cyber attacks” that threaten U.S. security, and why a “cyber attack” is now viewed as “an act of war.”

According to Cyber War experts, the United States needs a cyber force of 20,000 to 30,000 skilled experts to help fight the havoc terrorism would wreak on national security if and when major cyber attacks are launched against America. In addition to Cyber Command, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security are currently seeking cyber warriors to help fight this new war of the 21st Century. In turn, computer science students here at the University of Oregon and other major universities throughout the country are being recruited by the government to help wage this new Cyber War that’s already a clear and present danger to the homeland.

President signs executive order for Cyber Warfare

It was just recently that “President Barack Obama signed executive orders that lay out how far military commanders around the globe can go in using cyber attacks and other computer-based operations against enemies and as part of routine espionage in other countries. The orders detail when the military must seek presidential approval for a specific cyber assault on an enemy and weave cyber capabilities into U.S. war fighting strategy,” defense officials and cyber security experts told the Associated Press in a CBS News report June 22.

Also, the orders reflect more than two years of study by the Pentagon to “draft U.S. rules of the road for cyber warfare, and come as the U.S. begins to work with allies on global ground rules.”

The guidelines are much like those that govern the use of other weapons of war, from nuclear bombs to missiles to secret surveillance, the officials told AP.

Eugene computer science students and others may play a role in a future “Cyber War”

For example, the University of Oregon here in Eugene specializes -- as do many American universities -- in new computer science courses that are aimed at equipping this new generation of "cyber warriors" with the latest information and skills on how to wage Cyber War.

Moreover, major American universities such as the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and others, are provided students – say computer science experts –with the tools to help the U.S. when and if Cyber War becomes as common as ground war is today in the world.

Iran boasts of having the world’s second-largest cyber army. Thanks to the new Cyber command (Cybercom), the United States now views its “digital infrastructure”
to be a “strategic national asset,” and the world’s leader in the ongoing war against criminals, spies, soldiers and hackers who use the Internet and computers in an offensive cyber battles against the homeland.

The war of the future here now in our world

Richard A. Clarke, in his recent bestseller “Cyber War,” pulls no punches when it comes to a clear and present danger that all Americans will face in the now and into the mid-21st century.

Clarke’s credentials are impressive in the area of high technology. In 2001, for example, Clarke became the first “Special Advisor” to the president for what was then dubbed “Cyber Security.” Clarke has a vast background of work in nuclear strategy and espionage.

“Cyber war is not some victimless, clean, new kind of war that we should embrace. Nor is it some kind of secret weapon that we need to keep hidden from the daylight and from the public,” writes Clarke in his new book that sends chills down the spine of anyone who understands the “geek talk” of hackers and computer experts who’ve also been warning America about this looming threat.

Clarke goes on to write that even though America has helped invent this new technology, “the originator of this new offensive weaponry may be the loser unless it also figures out how to defend against the weapon it has shown to the rest of the world.”

For example, “The Economist” writes that China has plans of “winning cyber wars.” They also note that other countries are also “organizing for cyber war,” to include Russia, Israel and North Korea. And, it notes that “Iran boasts of having the world’s second-largest cyber army.”

America needs more cyber warriors to fight, and win a cyber war

Economically and militarily, Clarke writes that America has “already list in the new millennium’s cyber battles.”

The author compares the Soviet Union and China’s “theft of our nuclear bomb secrets in the 1940s and 1950s,” as akin to what’s happening today with the world gaining on the U.S. in cyber war technology.

“The possibilities of what we stand to lose in an all-out cyber war – our individual and national security among them – are just as chilling,” writes Clarke in his warning that points to cyber attacks already occuring by rouge states who are flexing their muscles.

Cyber Command ready to protect homeland

When the new U.S. Cyber Command was established in June after Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued the order, the plan was to bring Cyber Command on line “with full operating capacity coming in October 2010.”

The “order” is recognition that cyberspace is a “distinct military domain, along with land, sea and air, and the Defense Department must be prepared to defend and conduct offensive operations in it,” stated a Cyber Command news release.

“Cyberspace and its associated technologies offer unprecedented opportunities to the United States and are vital to our nation’s security and, by extension, to all aspects of military operations,” Gates wrote in his order. “Yet our increasing dependency on cyberspace, alongside a growing array of cyber threats and vulnerabilities, adds a new element of risk to our national security. To address this risk effectively and to secure freedom of action in cyberspace, the Department of Defense requires a command that possesses the required technical capability and remains focused on the integration of cyberspace operations.”

Thus, Cyber Command is now fully functional and flying under the radar as its cyber warriors shun the media spotlight while working in dark rooms where many cyber attacks are now happening.

Moreover, something along the lines of “internet panic “ may be the first indicator that a cyber-war is underway, states guidance from the U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Mede, Maryland.

Overall, Cyber Command’s mission is to defend the Defense Department’s computer networks.

“Government cyber warriors will not have the time or recourses to help Joe Six-pack with a getting his money out when the banks crash,” said one local computer expert. “The only recourse for civilians is to remain diligent. If it all goes down, there’s little you can do to get your computer system back up. That’s why it’s called cyber-war.”

Still, the global information grid is of vital importance to Cyber Command because this new style of war fighting still requires access to intelligence as up to the minute that the Internet provides.

Since its activation, both Cyber Command and its predecessors in global network operations have reported hundreds of thousands of cyber-war attacks that have been stopped or controlled in some way.

“Perhaps the most secret of all the U.S. military operations is with Cyber Command. That’s the nature of its mission – to be secret,” said one Eugene computer expert who asked not to be named.

At the same time, what’s public about Cyber Command is a view that “cyberspace has proven equal and just as important as air, sea, land and space as a domain. It’s clear that it must be defended.”

Banks and national media will be hit first

The view from the experts who know just how vulnerable the Internet is to hacking is the first wave of a cyber-war will hit banks, government agencies and the national media. And, most likely, the perpetrators will never be caught “because the cyber world is so huge that one can hide easily,” say cyber-war analysts.

While there’s also rumors that the Russians or even Iran may be involved in recent cyber attacks has not been proved.

Either way, Clarke says potential cyber war attacks are a clear and present danger, and discussed daily at the White House, in boardrooms of Silicon Valley and in the “electrical tunnels under Manhattan.”

The fear is this “cyber world” – that you are a part of by reading this – is the new epicenter of the Cyber War battlefield.

Cyber War experts defend new orders

"You don't have to bomb them anymore. That's the new world," said James Lewis, cyber security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"The new Pentagon strategy lays out cyber as a new warfare domain and stresses the need to fortify network defenses, protect critical infrastructure and work with allies and corporate partners," added Lewis is a June 22 AP report.

The entire strategy has not been released, but several U.S. officials described it on condition of anonymity. Many aspects of it have been made public by U.S. officials, including Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, in speeches over the past several months.

"We must be able to defend and operate freely in cyberspace," Lynn said in a speech last week in Paris. The U.S., he said, must work with other countries to monitor networks and share threat information.

“Lynn and others also say the Pentagon must more aggressively protect the networks of defense contractors that possess valuable information about military systems and weapons' designs. In a new pilot program, the Defense Department has begun sharing classified threat intelligence with a handful of companies to help them identify and block malicious cyber activity on their networks,” stated the AP report.

At a recent Capitol Hill hearing, the AP also reported that incoming Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, the outgoing CIA director, said the U.S. must be aggressive in offensive and defensive countermeasures.

"I've often said that there's a strong likelihood that the next Pearl Harbor that we confront could very well be a cyber attack that cripples our power systems, our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems," he said.

“That issue was clear during the cyber attack against Estonia in 2007 that used thousands of infected computers to cripple dozens of government and corporate websites. Estonia has blamed Russia for the attack. But, according to Robert Giesler, the Pentagon's former director of information operations, 17 percent of the computers that attacked Estonia were in the United States. He said the question is: Did the Estonians have the right to attack the U.S. in response, and what responsibility did the U.S. bear,” stated the June 22 AP report.

“Under the new Pentagon guidelines, it would be unacceptable to deliberately route a cyber attack through another country if that nation has not given permission — much like U.S. fighter jets need permission to fly through another nation's airspace,” AP stated.

Image source of Cyber War defense team: Wikipedia

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