Warfare by Internet: The Logic of Strategic Deterrence, Defense, and Attack

By de Czege, Huba Wass | Military Review, July-August 2010 | Go to article overview

Warfare by Internet: The Logic of Strategic Deterrence, Defense, and Attack


de Czege, Huba Wass, Military Review


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"Of what use is a thinker who doesn t hurt anybody's feelings? "

--Diogenes the Cynic

ADVERSARIES THREATENING OUR national security in the modern era will be hostile states, violent extremists, and even criminal syndicates. What fundamental principles should guide our security policies in meeting these threats in the cyberelectromagnetic dimension of global conflict? What strategic logic of deterrence, defense, and attack should guide the military doctrines of advanced industrialized nations like the United States and its allies? Would such logic be similar to that of warfare in general, or is it counterintuitive in some important ways? The purpose of this article is to explore possible answers to these kinds of questions by engaging in an excavation of the conditions in which vital information infrastructures of modern industrial states are at stake.

Relevant Factors

The principle issues are these:

* Determining who would want to attack critical information infrastructures and why.

* How such adversaries would attack "by Internet."

* How a state could deter such attacks.

* How a state should defend against and defeat such attacks.

* Whether offense by Internet is a viable way to change an undesirable status quo.

More questions requiring answers rise from thinking about these concerns. Causing a temporary disruption of a nation's critical cyber nervous system to provide an advantage in other dimensions of conflict is one thing, to leverage that disruption alone into anything more than a punitive act is quite another. From such dubious aspirations, it follows that creating offensive formations of "cybersquadrons" and "cyberfleets" to control the cyberdomain or the "global commons" of cyberspace will not be the greatest concern. For the wired community of advanced industrial states, enacting the more mundane yet challenging recommendations of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Commission will be more important. (1) Techno-capable outcast nations, extremist political movements, and criminal syndicates stand to benefit more from current conditions. Therefore, the way military thinkers approach doctrine relevant to the potential for Internet warfare must change. The Internet is a global commons to which the "cyberspace" metaphor is useful from the standpoint of political and legal approaches to sharing its utility with global allies. From the perspective of denying its benefits to adversaries, the cyberspace metaphor gets in the way of clear thinking.

Cyberspace as a "Domain"

William Gibson, the cyberpunk science fiction author, originally coined the term cyberspace (from cybernetics and space) in 1982. This now ubiquitous term has become the conventional way to describe anything associated with computers, information technology, the Internet, and the diverse Internet culture. In the 1980s, the term cyberspace started to become a de facto synonym for the Internet. During the 1990s, it was the same for the World Wide Web. Author Bruce Sterling, who popularized this meaning, credits John Perry Barlow as the originator who referred to "the present-day nexus of computer and telecommunications networks." (2) The term cyber is rooted in a forerunner to current information theory and computer science--the science of cybernetics and Norbert Wiener's pioneering work in electronic communication and control science. (3)

Cyber is used metaphorically to refer to objects and identities that exist largely within the communication network itself, so that a website, for example, might be said to "exist in cyberspace." According to this metaphor, events taking place on the Internet are not therefore happening in the countries where the participants or the servers are physically located, but "in cyberspace." This is understandable because the Internet and computer and communications systems permits people to be at any location while communicating with other entities or people that are "connected" at another location somewhere else in the world. …

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