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General News    H3'ed 2/9/11

Cyber-combat doesn't mean "non-lethal" warfare, warns Pentagon

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"The effects that we could produce in and through cyberspace range from simple deterrence all the way to unmitigated destruction and defeat," bravoed then-Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne earlier this decade in an issue of Air and Space Power Journal. "However, it is important to emphasize that nonkinetic does not equate to nonlethal," he wrote. "Just as we can use a kinetic attack to terrify rather than kill, so can we employ nonkinetic attacks to deliver a full spectrum of effects to irritate or cause tremendous loss of life and destruction of property."

Nonkinetic attacks that cause tremendous loss of life? Wynne statements sound as if the US military has in the works the power to disintegrate enemies as they sit at their computers. But because the US has been so secret about its offensive cyber capabilities (or CNA), no one is sure what is truly being coded and programmed within some of the US cyberwarfare units now in existence. 

Desirable but also monstrously dangerous in the forms of worms and viruses. Past viruses and worms coded by angst teenagers have taken down huge areas of the Web, no less. Banking institutions brought to their knees by kids who don't even have a bank account. If a teenager can write lines of code that makes thousands of ATMs crash, what could a 100-man, highly-trained unit of professional hackers do with all the right tools and computer power? Perhaps more importantly, what type of worm or what virus could they possibly unleash?

"The reality is, once you press that Enter button, you can't control it,"  said cyberwarfare expert Dan Verton to me, who has authored several books on the subject. "If the government were to release a virus to take down an enemies' network, their radar, their electrical grid, you have no control what the virus might do after that."  No control in cyberspace is probably one good reason the US military remains silent about it's emerging CNA arsenal. They may have virtual worms that could wreak havoc like virtual dragons; and thus trying to tame this power has become a main goal of research. In fact, in 2003, as the US prepared to invade Iraq, there was a plan in place to unleash a cyberattack against Saddam Hussein's finances. An attack that could've knocked out his ability to pay for the war. But the Bush administration called it off.

"We knew we could pull it off, we had the tools," said one senior official to the New York Times. But the White House was worried that the attack would spread to other financial networks and cripple the global markets, potentially costing Americans with their own friendly (financial) fire. 

The rest of the chapter can be read by purchasing John Lasker's "TECHNOIR: 13 Investigations from the Darkside of Technology, the US Military and UFOs" ($6.95) [link to]

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John Lasker is a freelance journalist from Ohio. His work has appeared in Wired, Christian Science Monitor, Space News, Buffalo News and many more. His first book "TECHNOIR: 13 Investigations from the Darkside of Technology, the US military and (more...)
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