Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Analysis: USAF's cyber offense capability
by Shaun Waterman
Washington (UPI) May 15, 2008

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Procurement documents from the U.S. Air Force give a rare glimpse into the Pentagon's plans for developing an offensive cyberwar capacity that can infiltrate, steal data from and if necessary take down enemy information technology networks.

The Broad Area Announcement, posted Monday by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Information Directorate in Rome, N.Y., outlines a two-year, $11 million effort to develop "access to any remotely located open or closed computer information systems," lurk on them "completely undetected," "stealthily exfiltrate information" from them and ultimately "be able to affect computer information systems through Deceive, Deny, Disrupt, Degrade, Destroy (D5) effects."

"Of interest," continues the announcement, "are any and all techniques to enable user and/or root level access to both fixed (and) mobile computing platforms �� (and) methodologies to enable access to any and all operating systems, patch levels, applications and hardware."

The announcement "reflects the fact that the Department of Defense views information operations as critical to success in modern warfare," Air Force spokeswoman Larine Barr told United Press International, and is designed to "ensure that Air Force Cyber Command stands up on the leading edge of technology and expertise."

The announcement is the latest stage in the Air Force's effort to develop a cyberwar capability and establish itself as the service that delivers U.S. military power in cyberspace. Last year the Air Force announced it was setting up a Cyber Command, alongside its Space and Air Commands, and was developing military doctrine for the prosecution of cyberwar operations.

The United States is not alone in thinking along these lines, and NATO announced Wednesday that seven European nations had signed up to participate in a cyberdefense Center of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia, which suffered a cyberattack last year that many officials believe was orchestrated by Russia.

The center will conduct research and training on cyberwarfare and include a staff of 30 persons, half of them specialists from the sponsoring countries of Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Spain, according to a statement from NATO.

The developments highlight the murky legal territory on which the cyberwars of the future will be fought: terrain on which attackers can cloak their identity and use as weapons the home computers of unsuspecting Web surfers that have been recruited to so-called botnets -- networks of PCs that unbeknownst to their owners have been compromised by hackers.

The cyberattack on Estonia last year, for instance, was carried out by botnets, and Russian officials have denied any involvement.

In a recent article for the Armed Forces Journal, Col. Charles Williamson, a staff judge advocate for the USAF Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, argued that computer users whose equipment was recruited to botnets because they failed to patch their systems could not properly be considered innocent bystanders.

"If the United States is defending itself against an attack that originates from a computer which was co-opted by an attacker, then there are real questions about whether the owner of that computer is truly innocent. At the least, the owner may be culpably negligent, and that does not, in fairness or law, prevent America from defending itself if the harm (from an attack) is sufficiently grave," wrote Williamson in the article, which officials were keen to stress does not represent U.S. policy.

More importantly, because of the difficulties in identifying attackers and immediately quantifying damage from a cyberattack, it can be hard to determine when such attacks constitute an act of war -- as opposed to crime or even vandalism.

"The speed and anonymity of cyberattacks makes it very hard to distinguish what actions would be those of terrorists, criminals, nation states or just some lone prankster," said Gen. William Lord, who heads up the new Cyber Command.

The legal minefield that U.S. cyberwarriors must negotiate was spelled out in an analysis prepared by the Defense Department general counsel.

"It would be useful to create a process for determining when the response to a computer intrusion should shift from the customary law enforcement and counterintelligence modes to a national defense mode," reads the analysis.

"No one's come out and defined that yet," Cyber Command spokeswoman Karen Petitt told UPI, adding that the Air Force saw its role as developing capabilities for cyberwar, but that the decision about when and how to use those capabilities would be one for the national leadership.


Related Links
Cyberwar - Internet Security News - Systems and Policy Issues

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

NATO launches cyber defence centre in Estonia
Brussels (AFP) May 14, 2008
NATO launched Wednesday a new cyber-defence training centre in Tallinn to defend against attacks over the Internet, a year after Estonia fell victim to a "cyber-war" blamed on Russian hackers. At NATO headquarters in Brussels, seven member nations -- Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Spain -- signed documents formally establishing the Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence ... read more

Astronaut Health On Moon May Depend On Good Dusting

Inhaling For Exploration As Scientists Test Lunar Breathing System

Send Your Name To The Moon With New Lunar Mission

Shanghai's Own Moon Vehicle Passes Test

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Finds Interior Of Mars Is Colder

Phoenix Ready For Northern Mars Polar Landing

Phoenix lander set for May 25 touchdown on Mars: NASA

Science Channel To Broadcast Red Planet Landing Live May 25

NASA announces educational TV partnership

NASA: ISS to soon have new water system

Russia, Europe ink deal on new manned spacecraft

First Korean Astronaut Yi So-Yeon Leaves Hospital After Soyuz Hard Landing

Suits For Shenzhou

China Launches New Space Tracking Ship To Serve Shenzhou VII

Three Rocketeers For Shenzhou

China's space development can pose military threat: Japan

Russian scientists announce 'spaceroach' grandchildren: report

Soyuz Carrier Rocket Set To Blast Off With New Progress Space Truck To Space Station

New Water Reclamation System Headed For Duty On Space Station

Canadian Space Agency Announces Contract With MDA For ISS

Spaceport Kourou Welcomes Fourth Ariane 5 Launch Campaign For 2008

Sweden Launches MASER 11 Sounding Rocket

Arianespace Takes Delivery Of Its Third Ariane 5 In 2008

Orbital Awarded Contract for Suborbital Launch Vehicle Research by US DoD

Planets By The Dozen

Record-Setting Laser May Aid Searches For Earthlike Planets

Exo-Planet Roadmap Advisory Team Appointed By ESA

Plan To Identify Watery Earth-Like Planets Develops

LIDAR Detector Will Build Three-Dimensional Super Roadmaps Of Planets And Moons

TerraSAR-X And NFIRE Fire Up The Pipe With Laser Data Transfer

SMS Texting Costs Are Out Of This World

Integral Systems Europe Announces EPOCH IPS Satellite Ground System PUS Compliance

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement