Securing the U.S. Defense Information Infrastructure: A Proposed Approach

By Robert H. Anderson; Phillip M. Feldman Scott et al. | Go to book overview

Appendix B
HOW THREATS RELEVANT TO AN MEII DIFFER FROM
HACKER NUISANCE ATTACKS

The potential threats we are most concerned with in this study have certain properties that distinguish them from the more common hacker nuisance attacks. First, the attacker ought to be able to pre/ dict the consequences of the information system attack fairly reliably. Second, these consequences should measurably increase the likeli/ hood that the attacker's strategic objectives will be met. Finally, in/ formation system attack options must compare favorably with alter/ natives that might achieve the same sort of results.

Predictability will be important if the attacker's objective is not sim/ ply to cause trouble but to embed information system attacks effec/ tively in a larger campaign involving other elements, including more conventional political, economic, and even military operations. If the information system attacks are essential to the success of other strategic elements in the attacker's plan, they had better work as in/ tended if the strategic objectives are ambitious (i.e., if the conse/ quences of failure could be dire). What could go wrong? At one ex/ treme, the information attacks could be detected and the perpetra/ tors identified, providing warning that could be used to upset other elements of the attacker's plan. At the other extreme, the informa/ tion attacks could be “too successful,” resulting in collateral damage that escalates the conflict beyond the attacker's intent, potentially causing him or her great harm. Concerns of the first sort typically limit the military applications of special-operations forces and other covert operations. At the other extreme, if serious damage were done to, for example, power distribution in the United States, causing sig/ nificant loss of “innocent” lives, the U.S. response might be extreme.

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