Truth About Computer Security Hysteria
Actually, cyber-budgets are the next battlefieldRob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Thursday, 21 June 2001 USA TODAY RAN a gushing story on the Pentagon's cyberwar efforts. And when I say a gushing story, I mean it. It ran on the front page of Tuesday's edition, "above the fold" where everyone could see it.
They work for the Defense Information Systems Agency, which figures that future conflicts won't be won by shooting down the enemy's aircraft but by shutting down its computers... They are being trained to guard against computer attacks by other countries and to launch computer virus invasions that will bring chaos to a foe's communications networks, financial systems and power grids. Military analysts say the United States is one of more than 20 countries girding for this new kind of conflict, known within the Defense Department as "IW" for information warfare... China is pursuing IW capabilities at least as aggressively as the Pentagon... Computer viruses are an enticing and relatively cheap weapon. Analysts say IW could shorten conventional conflicts or even head them off by bringing foes to their knees... Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ranks IW as one of the gravest national security threats... Analysts say the U.S. arsenal likely includes malevolent "Trojan horse" viruses... [Infowarriors] could change the enemy's tank computers to identify "friendly" forces as foes... Teams from the intelligence-gathering National Security Agency (NSA) [once] used Internet hacker programs to simultaneously break into nine [U.S.] city power grids and 911 emergency systems...Frontline soldiers hunkered down in virtual foxholes? Bring foes to their knees with a computer virus? Rumsfeld — an architect of the Vietnam war — now believes a 500-byte ping packet can outperform a 500-pound bomb? Thank goodness I picked up a new asthma inhaler before reading it. Stone made it clear she doesn't know the difference between a computer and a CB radio. Note this gem: "The Pentagon has already used computer weapons. During the Gulf War, U.S. warplanes emitted electronic jamming signals..." Bah. Memo to clueless reporter: Germany used the same technology against us in World War II. Only in the final paragraph did Stone offer any opposition to her gush. "Information warfare 'doesn't have the same punch as bombs,' [National Defense University IW expert Dan] Kuehl says."
STONE LITTERED HER story with the word "virus." At one point she declared "China has assembled a battalion of computer experts to develop offensive viruses." (Makes you wonder what a defensive virus looks like, eh?) Yet not once did she mention who supplies China with virus technology.
TIME FOR A philosophical question. What does the Pentagon hope to achieve with all of this propaganda? Stone buried the answer deep within her story. The military's Joint Task Force for Computer Network Defense "asked Congress for a 500% increase in funding, from $3.1 million to $18.6 million in 2002." I don't know about you, but I can't swallow such a big coincidence. They work too closely with the Defense Information Systems Agency. We can't call it lobbying per se, so let's think of it as "asymmetric lobbying." Then we find another story in the same newspaper edition written by — you guessed it — Andrea Stone. Beltway insiders believe Gee-Dubya, the Computer-in-Chief himself, will pick his top cyber-general as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Stone's front-page fluff piece came at a very opportune time for him. Okay, okay, the JCS nominee rumor does sound a little bit like a coincidence. Yet we'll never know for sure, will we?