Dr. Thomas Boghardt, Historian
Computer experts have repeatedly warned about our nation’s vulnerabilities to cyber attacks. These concerns are certainly not unwarranted, given the rising number of cyber incidents registered by U.S. networks, ranging from destructive viruses to spyware. More interesting to me is our government’s offensive capabilities.
By all accounts, our cyber capabilities are enormous, and the U.S. military has fully embraced this new type of warfare. The Pentagon graduates 80 students per year from its cyberwar school, and the 57th Information Aggressor Squadron of the Air Force and the Network Warfare Battalion of the Army are diligently war-gaming cyber attacks. Much of the military’s training and strategizing is done in collaboration with the nation’s premier cryptanalytic organization, the National Security Agency.
The United States has already wielded this virtual weapon on several occasions. In the late 1990s, Washington launched cyber attacks on Serbian government and communications systems. Similar assaults were carried out against Iraq in 2003. The Pentagon and the intelligence community even planned to electronically freeze billions of dollars in Saddam Hussein’s bank account and cripple his government’s financial system, but the operation was eventually shelved for fear that its execution would wreak havoc across the Middle East and beyond (much of Saddam’s money was tied up abroad).
As one of the most internet-dependent nations of the world, the United States is well-advised to ponder the unintended consequences of a cyber strike as well as the havoc caused by possible counter-strikes. It will be interesting to see how cyber planners will deal with this issue. But you may rest assured that they are working on a solution as you read this blog.
Nothing is What It Seems.