Academic journal article Military Review

Information Warfare: Task Force XXI or Task Force Smith

Academic journal article Military Review

Information Warfare: Task Force XXI or Task Force Smith

Article excerpt

THE US ARMY is on the verge of suffering its greatest defeat in history--a defeat that will redefine revolution in military affairs on the informational battlefield. Why will this defeat occur you ask? Because the United States is not taking the defensive steps necessary to limit the effectiveness of a sophisticated, coordinated cyberwar attack, despite the availability of proper tools. This article examines the growing potential for an informational disaster by exploring recent cyberwar attacks and the threats posed by these attacks. After winning the first informationage war in the Persian Gulf, the United States could well be the next victim of information warfare.

The Challenge

Information warfare (IW) is not a new phenomenon but rather an ancient one that is rapidly growing and transforming due to the impact of technology. Sun Tzu succinctly characterized the goal of IW with his observation that "To win a hundred victories in a hundred battlefields is not the acme of skill, but to subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill."1 Carl von Clausewitz likewise recognized IW's importance, noting that "Knowledge must become capability."2 The 2nd Punic War, the Mongol Doctrine of the 13th century, the Sepoy Mutiny, the Normandy Invasion and Operation Desert Storm are all historical examples of IW's dominant use.3 Because IW is as old as man himself, and given this rich heritage of historical IW, one may wonder why IW is receiving so much recent attention. The reason is the exploding impact of technology on IW.

Advances in technology are transforming IW by providing vastly improved capabilities, attainment of significant warfighting capabilities at relatively low cost and fundamentally different tools and targets. Because the technologies of range-jet and rocket engines, cruise missiles-tend to improve slowly and are extremely expensive, the US advantage in these areas is relatively secure, while those based on information technologies are constantly threatened by an explosive technological revolution.4 Computer technology increases twofold every 18 months. Between 1981 and 1993, PC processor speeds increased 120-fold, from 250,000 to 30,000,000 instructions per second. Therefore, significant computational power is readily available at very low cost. Computer networks are growing at an even faster rate. Between 1981 and 1996, the Internet grew from 215 hosts and 56-kilobits-persecond (kbps) links to tens of millions of hosts and billions of bps links.5

Like the movement from wooden-hulled to steel-hulled warships in the l9th century, niche competitors of the United States view this technological explosion as a means of leveling the playing field inexpensively and quickly. Hostile nations can buy the latest information technology at relatively low cost and rapidly become an IW military power. While no nation has exploited this opportunity, a recent review of cyberwar attacks starkly demonstrates the depth of America's growing vulnerability.

The IW threats facing the United States are growing and becoming increasingly sophisticated. In November 1988, Cornell University student Robert Morris inadvertently released the "Internet Worm." In the next two days, this poorly written 123-line program infected over 6,000 computer systems.6 The result: the Internet grinds to halt in the first and only successful attack against it. In August 1992, two graduate students at Texas A&M University uncovered a sophisticated, covert attempt to take over all of the mini- and mainframe computer systems at the university. Deeper investigation revealed that the attackers had already compromised the security of over 300 mini- and mainframe computer systems internationally and the computer hackers were using this tremendous computational power in an attempt to infiltrate numerous additional computer systems. The attacks were well coordinated, thorough and very sophisticated. In 1993, it was discovered that thousands of computer systems had been compromised through a "sendmail Trojan Horse. …

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