FW: *ICN - Cyber-Arsenal Needs Testing
- Cyber-Arsenal Needs Testing
BY: DAVID A. FULGHUM and ROBERT WALL
Air Intelligence Agency, now part of the Air Force's combat strike force, is
deeply immersed in the task of learning to fight with information as a
Information warfare, along with dozens of other technologies, involves enemy
computer network attacks. The exact methodology is among the nation's most
closely guarded secrets. It assumes the premier place occupied by stealth 20
years ago. However, Air Force officials can talk about the importance of the
technology and how it might be applied.
Surprisingly, little offensive importance is assigned to such well-known
brute force applications as viruses, spamming or worms. The Pentagon's
efforts seem focused on weapons capable of producing very well-defined
effects that won't cascade into national computer systems to disrupt
industries or banking systems. Mostly, they are designed to go undetected by
''If you want a show of force to prove you can deny something of value, I
can reach out and pick out some capability that hurts with no collateral
damage and no loss of life,'' said Col. David Stinson, vice commander of the
Air Force Information Warfare Center. ''That makes [information warfare] a
big and valuable player in that period [before combat begins]. The goal is
for things that deter a conflict or shape conditions that might produce an
agreement. Information operations create that kind of leverage.''
Clues from research projects indicate that Britain, Sweden, the U.S., Russia
and other countries have been working on high-powered microwave pulse
weapons that can be delivered by artillery shells or unmanned aerial
vehicles. Computer algorithms are being developed to infiltrate and search
computer databases in various languages for specific pieces of information.
Systems that can be mounted in either manned or unmanned aircraft can tap
into enemy computers through microwave links. U.S. operators have been able
to read enemy e-mail and insert false messages and targets into foreign air
defense systems for a number of years.
Last year, U.S. Space Command was assigned the overarching responsibility
for computer network defense and attack including the oversight of such
technology development. One of its initial tasks was to collect and
prioritize requirements for cyber-weapons. That has been done and the
requirements are being validated.
''There are classified, laboratory-like organizations that do this kind of
verification,'' said a defense official familiar with the Pentagon's
information operations capability. ''There is some chaos in the environment
right now with some organizations doing work that doesn't link directly to
the Space Command [needs]. One of its challenges is to find out who's doing
this work and bring order to it. As you can imagine, you spend months
working each requirement to find out what the user really wants. There are
more than 100 [ideas] for information warfare weapons out there, and I would
say 98 of them don't have sufficient intelligence. They can't say that a
particular country has 'X' computer code running on 'Y' computer. Often,
they are indigenously built computers using locally written software. Since
it is so difficult to classify and detail the computer environment, it's
equally hard to define the weapon to use against it.''
Aiding the development of such weaponry is the proliferation of
off-the-shelf high-speed processors and computers with huge memories. On the
upside, this rapid pace appears to be forcing the alignment of U.S.
development efforts at classified research laboratories, intelligence
agencies and the operational military.
''The kind of war we fight in the future will probably be of short duration
and conducted with great precision and in a tight timeframe,'' said Maj.
Gen. Bruce Wright, commander of the Air Force's Air Intelligence Agency.
''The Air Force [includes] information warfare, particularly as it applies
to defensive and offensive counter-information operations. We're normalizing
new kinds of warfare and establishing principles for both defense and
Therefore, it's crucial to get the wraps off information warfare tools and
get operational planners comfortable with the new technology.
''IO [information operations] is not just [highly classified] special access
programs,'' Wright said. ''IO unleashed is actually IO better integrated. We
can't keep everything behind the green door [of classification]. We have to
pull out the right pieces, for example, the weapons effects that might go
along with a special access program. You need that for planning. Or, a
deception technique doesn't have to be so highly classified that no one
knows about it. There will always be secrets, but we want to operationalize
those capabilities more through exercises and training. We want to take IO
off the [briefing] slides and make it real.''
Several circumstances make this a difficult job. Technology is changing so
quickly that traditional development cycles for new weapon systems don't
work. Enemy command-and-control systems, for example, can quickly be adapted
with advances in computer systems, cell phone networks, new encryption
devices and the Internet. And, frequencies can be shifted quickly through
the HF, UHF and VHF bands to further confuse attackers.
''THE OLD SA-2 [ANTI-AIRCRAFT MISSILE], as operated by the Soviet Union, had
one primary operating frequency and one war reserve mode,'' Wright said. If
the U.S. knew the two frequencies, they could jam and evade the system.
''Now those war reserve modes can be unlimited.''
The problem ripples throughout IO for which the U.S. must produce tactics
and procedures, deception techniques and operational security plans that
counter rapidly developing computer technologies devised to protect enemy
systems and attack the U.S. To forestall any technological missteps, AIA has
adopted a building block approach.
''I haven't focused on [operational fielding of] computer network attack or
cyberwar because I don't think there's a silver bullet there that would
completely take down an integrated air defense network system, or attack the
power and light structure for a whole country,'' Wright said. However, he
added that this could change if some of the cyberwarfare tools under
development start to mature. ''There are opportunities for [IW] to leverage
traditional military operations to make them more decisive,'' he said.
To sell the viability of information operations, AIA has assigned an
information warfare flight of about 30 specialists to each major command and
numbered Air Force.
''YOU HAVE TO PUSH THIS TECHNOLOGY and advertise it,'' Wright stressed. ''If
they are in the battleroom, they're offering plans and options every day. It
avoids the situation of having the air tasking order already put together
before you hear [intelligence] plans for deception or special information
projects. I don't care how great the technology or weapon is, if it's not
there everyday [for training], it's not going to be used [in wartime].''
Despite the legal and technical uncertainties, these pioneers in information
warfare predict the vagaries of the new discipline would be resolved quickly
if there were a national emergency. Senior officials have developed a
''special technical operations'' approval process.
''I think the entire community realizes if there were a crisis, somehow we
would come up with a plan that would permit warfighters to go to the
national command authority for permission to execute computer network
[operations],'' said Army Col. David Kirk, deputy commander of the Joint
Information Operations Center at Kelly AFB, Tex. ''And, they would feel
comfortable with the rules of engagement that delegate authority to
subordinate commanders.'' Even so, there are concerns. ''We haven't matured,
weaponized or exercised the capability in sufficient fidelity or
repetitiveness to have the whole system in place today,'' he said.
GRAPHIC: Table, Photograph: Teams of Air Force specialists are trained to
immediately locate and respond to computer network attacks by a range of
intruders from high school hackers to state-sponsored electronic terrorists.
However, they admit there could be attacks so sophisticated they go
Aviation Week & Space Technology
February 26, 2001