The 2009 National Intelligence Strategy (NIS) has warned that the U.S. increasingly is being challenged in cyber space and warns that China is particularly active in this new domain. This warning comes on the heels of recent massive cyber attacks against Estonia and, in the context of Russia’s military campaign last year, Georgia. While these events inflicted only limited damage or disruptions they are certainly a portent of things to come. Although there is not incontrovertible proof, the educated guess is that the Russian government was behind the recent attacks. Chinese military doctrine refers to something called “The Assassin’s Mace,” which a number of experts believe is a massive, preemptive cyber attack designed to render an opponent’s military, governmental and major infrastructure systems inoperable.
Each technological revolution has brought with it changes in the ways of warfare. What has emerged from the IT revolution is the prospect for a new form of warfare consisting of the manipulation of bits and bytes in an artificial environment, cyber space. The U.S. military speaks of computer network operations (CNO) which includes actions taken to leverage and optimize the information networks on which weapons systems and forces are increasingly dependent, as well as offensive and defensive operations to gain information superiority and deny the enemy this enabling capability.
The Department of Defense needs to take cyber warfare as seriously as it once did the prospect of nuclear conflict. The NIS calls for additional measures to protect critical infrastructure against cyber attack. The military clearly must be capable of defending its networks and computer systems. Of course, this is only half of the equation. As the world in general, and potential adversaries such as Russia and China, in particular, become more cyber savvy and cyber dependent, they too become vulnerable to cyber attack.
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