Putting the Cyber in Cyber Warfare

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dan Dieterle

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Analyzing the security field for a while now, I have seen the naysayer comments about cyber warfare. In a real war, you can’t kill with Denial of Service attacks.  

Or, you can’t shut down the power grid through the internet.

Well, putting all the fluff aside, how would cyber attacks be used in war time?

Right now we just see a lot of cyber espionage, nation states stealing information from other nations. Not that this is a little thing that can just be ignored.

According to Sun-Tzu in the Art of War, “Thus it is said that one who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be endangered in a hundred engagements.”

But what most people don’t realize is that in a military conflict, cyber warfare is just another tool in the tool chest. It will be folded in with other forms of electronic warfare.

On the Military channel a while back they interviewed a Commando Solo pilot.

He mentioned that during Desert Storm, they completely owned Iraq’s communication, radar, SAM and advanced warning systems.

They were able to hide American troop movement by removing them from their systems, and placing fake decoy units into the system.

Electronic warfare specialists coordinated with Special Forces ground troops to subvert every form of Iraqi communication.

An Iraqi officer would pick up the phone and a Special Forces operator would answer.

It got so bad, that Iraqi’s no longer trusted radio and phone communication to troops, so they started hand writing commands and delivering them in vehicles.

The US responded by simply blowing up the vehicles.

Systems do not have to be connected to the internet to be susceptible to cyber warfare. Many modern communication systems run on TCP/IP, the same protocol that the internet uses. 

When TCP/IP was created, security was not a big concern, so phone systems based on TCP/IP are just as susceptible to the same protocol level vulnerabilities as computer systems.

Also, systems not connected to the internet are still vulnerable to cyber warfare if someone walks into the facility and installs a virus or a back door into the system.

Or, if a USB drive infected with SCADA attacking Stuxnet is plugged into a computer inside the isolated network…

The Russians combined cyber warfare tactics with physical warfare during the Russia-Georgia conflict.

When utilities and communication systems go down during a large natural disaster, chaos ensues.

We are one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, yet look how long it took to get aid to New Orleans during Katrina.

When communication systems and utilities go down during a military conflict the outcome is very deadly indeed.

Cross-posted from Cyber Arms

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