The War on Cyber Terrorism
America is at war and the latest front is the war on Cyber Terrorism. The internet and associated networks has been under attack from many sectors including hackers, disgruntled employees, financial fraud perpetrators, cyber criminals and now state sponsored cyber terrorists.
What started out as a small number of annoying viruses, malware, Trojan horses and worms have now blossomed into aggressive attacks on our military and industrial segments. U.S. computer networks are under constant cyber attacks, by direct assaults by remote sites, by probes by hackers and criminal networks and by espionage from foreign countries.
President Barack Obama last year declared that the cyber threat is one of nation’s most serious economic and national security challenges.
While there are rapid developments in the area of defenses against Cyber Terrorism, this article makes the case that a strong offensive strategy is required as well as comprehensive defensive measures.
International Cyber Terrorism
Recently cyber attacks can be traced to totalitarian regimes that either directly support and encourage or harbor cyber terrorists. While initial attacks from this area have been intermittent and scattered, military bases and the electric grid have been penetrated. The threat to cause significant damage is ever present and growing. Defensive measures, while critically important, are not enough and cyber criminals must be countered with aggressive offensive attacks.
The Strategy Must Include Offense
The concept of defenses against Cyber Terrorism is easier to understand that an offensive strategy because the defensive attack point is easy to identify. The owners or operators of a particular site can identify their own assets that are at risk.
An offensive strategy however must identify the attacker and the amorphous, cross border nature of the internet often shields attackers. Some attackers can hide their toxic programs in legitimate domestic computer installations. In cyberspace it is difficult to deliver an effective response if the attacker’s identity is not known.
In addition, there is no international consensus on the definition of use of force, in or out of cyberspace, and many experts said uncertainty creates the potential for disagreements among nations.
Nevertheless, some experts have noted that whereas police officers don’t have to know the identity of a shooter in order to shoot back. In cyberspace, the U.S. may be able to counter a threat, rebuff an electronic probe or disable a malicious network without knowing who is behind the attack.
Alexander’s answers reflect the murky nature of the Internet and the escalating threat of cyber terrorism, which defies borders, operates at the speed of light and can provide deep cover for assailants who can launch disruptive attacks from continents away, using networks of innocent computers.
The U.S. should counter computer-based attacks swiftly and forcefully and act to thwart or disable a threat even when the attacker’s identity is unknown, and we have the technology required to carry out even preemptive offensive attacks.
Offensive Cyber Warfare sends a powerful message to cyber criminals beyond the reach of U.S. criminal laws and regulations and rapid destruction of state sponsored criminal networks would have a chilling effect on future criminal actions. Offensive measure must be used responsibly but proactively.
Problem – More Definition is Required
Just as there are many types of Cyber crimes so there should be different levels of offensive Cyber Warfare. Some hacking, although criminal in nature, is confined to a small number of non critical sites and is subject to existing criminal laws.
Since Cyber war covers a wide variety of situations. It is often used to refer to everything from financial crimes to computer hacks that could kill people by blowing up a pipeline. It was discovered last year that spies hacked into the US electric grid and left behind computer programs that would allow them to disrupt services.
The “war” metaphor is potentially problematic, because it could shift responsibility of cyber crime onto governments, as some private industries would like to see happen. Instead, experts agree that it should be a joint effort, principally when it comes to attacks on control systems for critical infrastructure. And, it is essential that all efforts against Cyber Warfare include aggressive and devastating measures.
The technology is available and our safety requires immediate action.