Cyberwar: The Pentagon Cyberstrategy

Summary:  In the the first in a series by guest author Marcus J. Ranum, he describes what might become one of the primary forms of conflict in the 21st century.  How real is the threat?  Is the Department of Defense approaching this in a logical way?

“Mr. President, if that’s what you want there is only one way to get it.  That is to make a personal appearance before Congress and scare the hell out of the country.”

— Senator Arthur Vandenberg’s advice to Truman about how to start the Cold War.  On 12 March 1947 Truman did exactly that.  From Put Yourself in Marshall’s Place, James P. Warburg (1948); in 1941 Warburg helped develop our wartime propaganda programs.

Article deleted at author’s request.


(5)  For more information

  1. War Logs On: Girding America for Computer Combat“, Bruce D. Berkowitz (RAND, coauthor of Best Truth: Intelligence in the Information Age), Foreign Affairs, May/June 2000 — “In Kosovo, America stumbled into the age of computer warfare. Now Washington must think hard about how to attack its foes’ electronic networks and defend its own.”
  2. Securing the Information Highway – How to Enhance the United States’ Electronic Defenses“, Wesley K. Clark and Peter L. Levin, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2009
  3. Obama knows how to lead America by exploiting our fears,  5 June 2009 — About cyberwar
  4. Defending a New Domain – The Pentagon’s Cyberstrategy“, William J. Lynn III, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2010
  5. The Wrong War: The Insistence on Applying Cold War Metaphors to Cybersecurity Is Misplaced and Counterproductive“, Peter W. Singer and Noah Shachtman, Brookings Institute, 15 August 2011 — Both authors are with the 21st Century Defense Initiative.
  6. The Calm Before the Storm“, Joel Brenner, Foreign Policy, 6 September 2011 — “Cyberwar is already happening — and it’s about to get much, much worse. A veteran cyberwarrior explains how America can prepare itself.”



9 thoughts on “Cyberwar: The Pentagon Cyberstrategy”

  1. Ranum’s point about location is very much like quantum physic’s non-locality principle. Only where we focus is it ‘real’. Einstein and his colleagues used verbal thought experiments (imagination) to change particle physics. Very low-tech. Perhaps the weapons of the future isn’t a weapon as such, but a different form of intelligence. One that isn’t over-focused on the technology.

    1. Bill Joy (Sun Microsystems) wrote a famous article for Wired years ago that dealt with artificial intelligence and other advanced technology threats to human existence (as we know it).

      “Ray [Kurzweil] gave me a partial preprint of his then-forthcoming book _The Age of Spiritual Machines_, which outlined a utopia he foresaw – one in which humans gained near immortality by becoming one with robotic technology. On reading it, my sense of unease only intensified; I felt sure he had to be understating the dangers, understating the probability of a bad outcome along this path.”

      Artificial Intelligence is predicted to reach current levels of human intelligence by the year 2050. This event is referred to as the “Singularity”. Please note that the pace of advancement of artificial intelligence will not stop at that point, but continue, unlike “raw” human intelligence.

      Some advanced future medical therapies will involve extensive organ replacement, with predictions of human lifespans reaching 120 to 150 years. These will eventually become human-robotic hybrids. Cognitive enhancements to such hybrids basically represent the evolutionary beginnings of one or more new “advanced” species.

      One possible positive outcome is that the limitations (recently discovered by anthropologists*) that purely human DNA place on social organization (“civilizations are scaled up, unstable supertribes”) will be overcome, and a true global civilization (and “world peace”) will be possible. {see here}

      Note: Richerson’s work was recently referenced by Geoffrey West of the Santa Fe Institute as being related to West’s work on scaling models and global economics. See Ceasar Hidalgo’s web site for some cool graphics from scaling algorithms.

  2. "Cyberwar is already happening -- and it's about to get much worse"

    An interesting article taking the opposite view from that of this post:

    The Calm Before the Storm“, Joel Brenner, Foreign Policy, 6 September 2011 — “Cyberwar is already happening — and it’s about to get much, much worse. A veteran cyberwarrior explains how America can prepare itself.”

  3. The Revolution will be run by paper, not electronics

    Political Repression 2.0“, Evgeny Morozov, op-ed in the New York Times, 1 September 2011 — Excerpt:

    AGENTS of the East German Stasi could only have dreamed of the sophisticated electronic equipment that powered Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s extensive spying apparatus, which the Libyan transitional government uncovered earlier this week. The monitoring of text messages, e-mails and online chats — no communications seemed beyond the reach of the eccentric colonel.

    What is even more surprising is where Colonel Qaddafi got his spying gear: software and technology companies from France, South Africa and other countries.

    … Libya is only the latest place where Western surveillance technology has turned up. Human rights activists arrested and later released in Bahrain report being presented with transcripts of their own text messages — a capacity their government acquired through equipment from Siemens, the German industrial giant, and maintained by Nokia Siemens Networks, based in Finland, and Trovicor, another German company.

    Earlier this year, after storming the secret police headquarters, Egyptian activists discovered that the Mubarak government had been using a trial version of a tool — developed by Britain’s Gamma International — that allowed them to eavesdrop on Skype conversations, widely believed to be safe from wiretapping.

    And it’s not just off-the-shelf technology; some Western companies supply dictators with customized solutions to block offensive Web sites. A March report by OpenNet Initiative, an academic group that monitors Internet censorship, revealed that Netsweeper, based in Canada, together with the American companies Websense and McAfee (now owned by Intel), have developed programs to meet most of the censorship needs of governments in the Middle East and North Africa — in Websense’s case, despite promises not to supply its technology to repressive governments.

    … many of these tools were first developed for Western law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

  4. The Wrong War: The Insistence on Applying Cold War Metaphors to Cybersecurity Is Misplaced and Counterproductive

    The Wrong War: The Insistence on Applying Cold War Metaphors to Cybersecurity Is Misplaced and Counterproductive“, Brookings Institute, 15 August 2011


    1. Peter W. Singer, Director, 21st Century Defense Initiative
    2. Noah Shachtman, Nonresident Fellow, Foreign Policy, 21st Century Defense Initiative


    For every big policy issue, there’s usually a parallel that can be found in the past. As Mark Twain once put it, “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

    The problem for policymakers, though, is identifying which tune it exactly is that they are hearing. While applying lessons from the past can be a useful analytic tool, we frequently unearth old analogies that may not be the right fit for the new problem we face. Indeed, most often we turn to the songs we know best, the ones we hummed in our youth, when others may be more apt. For instance, senior Air Force officers during the Vietnam War clung to a strategic bombing campaign more suited to their early experiences bombing Nazi Germany than a Third World insurgency, while in turn, the recent debate about Afghanistan keeps echoing back to baby boomer concerns about whether a 21st century war would be “Obama’s Vietnam.”

    Today, the hit makers of Washington could be making a similar mistake when it comes to cybersecurity, trying to jam a new issue into the wrong historic framework. The new rhythms of online crime, spying and statecraft are unfamiliar. So, perhaps not surprising, they’re turning to an old parallel that they spent most of their professional lives working on: the Cold War.

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  6. Just like Capt America: Cyber Command Builds ‘Cyber Warriors!

    Cyber Command Builds ‘Cyber Warrior’ Capabilities“, American Forces Press Service, 27 September 2011 — Opening:

    Recognizing there’s no cookie-cutter formula for a “cyber warrior,” the outgoing chief of staff at U.S. Cyber Command said the strong, diverse capabilities already in place will provide the foundation for the military’s professional cyber corps.

    After his pivotal role in standing up U.S. Cyber Command and helping to mold its initial cyber force, Air Force Maj. Gen. David N. Senty noted the array of skill sets it brings to the mission of defending vital military networks.

    The cyber force includes experts not only in information technology, but also in signals intelligence, communications and military operations. Combat-arms forces among their ranks bring an operational mindset and military judgment to the equation, Senty said. …

  7. Foreign Affairs: "The Pentagon's Cyberstrategy, One Year Later"

    The Pentagon’s Cyberstrategy, One Year Later – Defending Against the Next Cyberattack“, William J. Lynn III (Deputy Secretary of Defense), Foreign Affairs, 28 September 2011 — Summary:

    More destructive cyberweapons are being created every day, and an increasingly sophisticated technology black market virtually guarantees that they will eventually land in the hands of the United States’ enemies. Robust defenses are no longer a luxury, they are a necessity.

    Not one word about Stuxnet. Only about US defenses. Our attacks don’t count. Any cyber arms-race is not our fault.

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