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Should the U.S. continue to plan enemy attacks via cyberspace?
January 6, 1999
Web posted at: 1:31 p.m. EST (1331 GMT)
by Daniel Verton
(IDG) -- A debate is brewing in the Defense Department about whether the United
States should continue to pursue offensive strategies to attack enemies via
cyberspace, thereby opening the door to future coordinated and sophisticated
attacks by other countries, according to an author of a recently released
"There are some in the Pentagon and elsewhere who believe that it will not be
to the net advantage of the U.S. to see [the use of strategic information
warfare] become widespread," said Roger C. Molander, a senior research
analyst with Rand Corp. and one of the authors of "Strategic Information
Warfare Rising," a study commissioned by DOD to develop a strategy and
policy framework for dealing with strategic information warfare issues. In fact,
Molander added, there are many in DOD who "eschew attacking
infrastructures through cyberspace as a new principle of warfare."
The report, which has been circulating within DOD for at least six months,
recently was used by DOD to formulate a response to a recent Russian
proposal before the United Nations General Assembly that called for the
U.N. to study the global security threat posed by the development of
offensive strategic information warfare (IW) capabilities. The U.N. is
scheduled to debate the issue in the fall.
According to the Rand report, there are four "plausible and potentially
desirable" scenarios facing the United States and the world when it comes to
strategic information warfare:
- U.S. supremacy in offense and defensive strategic IW.
- A club of strategic IW elites, whereby a policy of no first use of
strategic IW capabilities could be established.
- Global "defensive dominance" in strategic IW, whereby a regime would
be established to control the spread of strategic IW similar to biological
and chemical weapons.
- Market-based diversity, whereby the damage or disruption achievable
through a strategic IW attack is modest and recovery is fast.
According to Molander, the report successfully outlined the parameters to
help guide senior DOD policy-makers through the decision-making process
when it comes to strategic IW. This study is about "the idea that you can
shape the future," Molander said.
Dan Verton is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.