October 1, 2007

Cyberwarfare: The new challenge

... News services have paid only scant attention to the matter but this may change after Chinese hackers recently penetrated the Pentagon hitting a secure but unclassified system known as NIPRNet ... in today's information environment, the ex filtration that once took years can be accomplished in a matter of minutes in one download session ...

Confirming mounting concern about military and civilian computer hacking, in November 2006 Michael Wynne, Secretary of the Air Force announced that the U.S. (Air Force) had created a Cyberwarfare group named, Cyberspace Command. Its objective 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”.

Most nearly all U.S. Department of Defense cyber planning is secretive, but we do know that President Bush signed a directive in 2002 that outlines how the U.S. may attack foreign computer systems and then in late 2003, Donald Rumsfeld approved a lengthy report, Information Operations Roadmap actually detailing plans to develop Cyberwarfare capabilities. Finally, earlier this year another report, this time Congressional, stated that the Pentagon proceed with developing (the capabilities) citing the likely devastating “cascading effect’ caused by a successful cyber attack on military and civilian systems.

News services have paid only scant attention to the matter but this may change after Chinese hackers recently penetrated the Pentagon hitting a secure but unclassified system known as NIPRNet. On the 3rd of September U.S. sources stated that the Chinese military successfully accessed a Pentagon computer network three months earlier in what was deemed the most significant of its kind ever recorded. Initially defence officials did not elaborate on the possible source of the security infringement however; an internal investigation that followed revealed that the People’s Liberation Army of China was the offender. One official was able to determine precisely where the attack originated and another, demonstrating his familiarity with the breach, stated how the PLA’s connection was regarded with “(a) very high level of confidence...was trending towards total certainty”. This should not be surprising as this is an area that China is most interested in. In an interesting article, "Preparing for digital Pearl Harbor". The Herald Tribune reports that "China is expanding its capacity to engage in cyberwarfare as part of its military buildup".

In another interesting write up, staff writers for The Christian Science Monitor recently suggested that the hackers might not have been after any secrets; instead, the intention was to probe Pentagon network structures. NIPRNet is critical to the rapid deployment of U.S. forces should for example, China attack Taiwan. A successful hit would give the enemy crucial hours in a quick attack. As the issue continued to remain below the media radar, cyber attacks by China had become so frequent and aggressive that President Bush said during APEC earlier this month, “a lot of our systems are vulnerable to attack” adding that respect of “systems” is “what we expect from people with whom we trade”, a comment aimed directly at the Chinese.

The Pentagon notes that China’s ambitions, in what is loosely referred to as, “the new arms race”; extend to crippling financial, military, and communications capabilities. It has also released information showing that more than 79,000-attempted intrusions were logged in 2005 alone, of which over 1300 were successful.

In writings pre-dating this blog, the impending risks of not developing defenses against cyber attacks were weighted against the fact that China had already created a blueprint for assaults on America including a detailed plan to disable America’s Aircraft Battle Carrier Fleet. Fast forward to 2007 and in a report to congress Gen. James Cartwright noted that China is currently probing the computer networks of U.S. Government agencies. The U.S. - China economic and Security Review commission also heard that, "in today's information environment, the ex filtration that once took years can be accomplished in a matter of minutes in one download session". The report concluded that for Chinese defense planners cyberwarfare is a useful means of, "undermining the U.S. military's technological edge".

The recent NIPRNet event, the Presidents recent public acknowledge and the disturbing Pentagon attack should serve as a wake-up call for the military in particular and society in general, to up the ante in terms of more aggressive vigilance and action.

Comments always appreciated


Incognito said...

Interesting stuff!

I still think the Chinese and the Russkis will become as major a threat (eventually) as our Islamist foes. Scary.

Flag Gazer said...

This is frightening stuff... I had heard briefly about it, but thank you for all of the information.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

I appreciate your discussion of this threat - and the links.

Frightening? Yes.

I wouldn't count on news services, at least not in America, paying much attention to this: China as a serious threat to America doesn't seem to be an idea they're comfortable with.

Lead in toys from China seems to be as far as they'll go.

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

A little off subject but I found your site at Jenn the Conservative Chic.

First thank you for standing with my country! It is refreshing to see!

Second every month I post a Blog of the Month and spotlight that blog. You are the spotlight for October. Thanks for all you do and keep up the great work.

WomanHonorThyself said...

great work my friend...we must not lose hope however..the enemies will be defeated!

Anonymous said...

Great post A.I. You are truly a font of information. The U.S. doesn't take China serious enough. They see the major threats in Iran or Korea and are not focused on little ones that may be creeping in.


Debbie said...

Excellent and very informative. I posted briefly on the Chinese hacking into the Pentagon, but you have taken this much further.

I do believe that China (and Russia) are becoming major threats to the US and probably to other Western nations. How much easier it would be to attack via computers than a military attack.

The Pentagon downplayed the recent attacks from China, but what else would we expect them to do?

Ortho said...

Hi Ottavio. I read some of your insightful comments at Right Truth, so I decided to visit your blog.

I enjoyed reading this post. It points to a critical aspect of 21st-century warfare--systems disruption. The Pentagon's computer system is not the only vulnerable system. For instance, every industry--from Airlines and utilities to supermarkets and department stores--heavily relies upon computer systems. Hackers could infiltrate any of these systems and wreak havoc. For example, infiltrate an electric grid: cut off power for metropolitan areas or a portion of a country. Or, infiltrate the computer systems of stores: steal consumer ID and credit card data to sell for funding terrorist attacks. The scenarios are endless.

On my blog, I have written a little bit about cyberwarfare and the use of the Internet to mobilize masses. You or your readers may find some of the posts of interest.

1. "manifestos, wolfcauldians, preemptive cyberstrike
2. "infowar"
3. "The 'cyber war' that was(n't)"
4. "NSA Prepares for Cyber War"

Internet and Mobilization
1. "mobile networks, emerging protests"
2. "the state snaps"

American Interests said...

I thank all for your thoughtful comments.

The Liberal Lie ...:
Hello Ken, I have added yours to the blogroll and really appreciate the spotlight on this blog.

Ortho: Thanks and welcome to my blog.

TRUTH-PAIN said...

Once again a deep and well-presented thesis. I'm going to read this a few times to fully digest the amount of info...
Well done!!

Tapline said...

otto,,,This is frightening stuff....Where is the media and news networks on this threat. Maybe if we keep our heads in the sand long enough it will go away. We are so econonically dependent on China at this juncture. I do not know where it will end. I understand, They are buying our paper,and financing the war in Iraq. What else,,,God knows...me thinks we better wake up on more than one front..