Pentagon: The global cyberwar is just beginning
The Pentagon and its NATO allies are looking at how to improve their defenses against a cyberwar, but the basic question of how to define a cyberattack is complicating efforts.
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This upending of some key tenets of military doctrine is prompting the Pentagon to look to some surprising new places for strategic models of cyberdefense, including public health. “A public health model has some interesting applications," Lynn said. "Can we use the kinds of techniques we use to prevent diseases? Could those be applied to the Internet?”Skip to next paragraph
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To that end, the Pentagon is now researching means of introducing internal defenses to the Internet so that it acts more like a human organism. When it’s hit with a virus, for example, it might mutate to fend it off. Such strategies are meant to “shift the advantage much more to the defender and away from the attacker,” Lynn said.
The problem is that the Internet currently has very few natural defenses. And sophisticated crafted viruses like Stuxnet are even tougher to fend off. Indeed, the Web “was not developed with security in mind,” he added. “It was developed with transparency in mind; it was developed with ease of technological innovation.” Those same attributes do not lend themselves to good security. Among the potential targets for cyberattack frequently mentioned by cybersecurity experts are the nation's powergrid and financial system.
It was in 2008 that a cyberattack on Pentagon networks – an attack attributed to an unnamed "foreign intelligence service" – served as a wake-up call for US defense leadership. “To that point, we did not think our classified networks could be penetrated, so it was – it was a fairly shocking development,” said Lynn, adding that it was a “seminal moment” in a new military frontier.
Lynn put forward an analogy to early American warfare that the Pentagon often likes to call upon to illustrate its point. “If you figure the Internet is 20, 20-plus years old, and you kind of analogize to aviation … the first military aircraft was bought, I think, in 1908, somewhere around there. So we’re in about 1928,” he said.
“We’ve kind of seen some … biplanes shoot at each other over France,” he added. “But we haven’t really seen kind of what a true cyberconflict is going to look like.”
He warned, however, that there were a few things that appear clear. It is a kind of war that “is going to be … more sophisticated, it’s going to be more damaging, it’s going to be more threatening” than it appears at the present, Lynn said. “And it’s one of the reasons we’re trying to get our arms around the strategy in front of this rather than respond to the event.”