Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

February 21, 2010

The First World Web War

Filed under: CyberKill — Frank Fiore @ 10:28 AM

“Information warfare is the offensive and defensive use of information and information systems to deny, exploit, corrupt, or destroy, an adversary’s information, information-based processes, information
systems, and computer-based networks while protecting one’s own. Such actions are designed to achieve advantages over military, political or business adversaries.”

– Dr. Ivan Goldberg

Cyber-warfare is one of the themes of CyberKill. The kind of destruction once possible only with a battery of intercontinental missiles now seems achievable at the click of a mouse.

Cyber-wars use so-called “weapons of mass disruption” and can be as effective a way of bringing a country to its knees as bombing its oil refineries.

In CyberKill, the US arsenal of cyber-weapons is housed at the US Army Information Warfare Laboratory at Fort Belvoir, VA. There, experts from varied fields of Information Technology ply a trade of disruption and destruction through cyber-plagues incubated and deployed from keyboards and mice. The US is thought to hold one of the most sophisticated and top secret stores of so-called cyber-bombs.

But that by no means gives it a monopoly.

The Information Warfare Lab is the home of every malicious computer program known. And then some. If any such program was to find its way out onto the Internet, they would instantly wreak havoc with the nation’s information infrastructure. At the Lab, these different strains of malevolent code were not only studied but inoculations were created, as well, to protect the nation’s information network. In addition, these malicious pieces of code, and the new ones created at the IWL, are used to produce information warfare weapons for the new kind of war in the 21st century – a ‘Cool War’.

According to US Government reports, at least 120 groups or countries are developing information-warfare systems, most of them using the net as their means of attack. The end result could be this.

First bring down an opponents power grid. Then disrupt their oil pipeline flows, drowning their military installations in oil in one place and starving it in others. At the same time wreak havoc with their financial sector. Their transportation, financial and power systems will shut down, causing incalculable economic damage. And all this could happen without warning – a Digital Pearl Harbor.

CSIRT even has a defense condition like DEFCON 1, 2 3 and 4 for information warfare. It’s called INFOCON 1, 2, 3 and 4.

InfoCon 1: Peacetime day-to-day status – Reasoning: No major exploits and attacks evident.

InfoCon 2: Initial level of heightened alert – Reasoning: attack in progress (or believed to be imminent) that could lead to increase in latency and local connectivity outages.

InfoCon 3: Full heightened alert – Reasoning: attack in progress that causes an increase in latency, local connectivity outages or compromises of a large number of hosts.

InfoCon 4: “Wartime” status; Internet Meltdown – Reasoning: attack in progress that caused failure of major parts of the internet infrastructure (backbone)

So, how vulnerable is the US to information warfare? More than we’d like.

Eligible Receiver 97 was a U.S. government exercise conducted under what is known as the No-Notice Interoperability Exercise Program. The exercises were held June 9-13, 1997 and included participants such as the National Security Agency (which acted as the Red Team), Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Reconnaissance Office, Defense Information Systems Agency, Department of State, Department of Justice, as well as critical civilian infrastructure providers such as power and communication companies.

The NSA Red Team used hacker techniques and software that was freely available on the Internet at that time. DoD Red Team computer experts derived techniques and tools from open source research (primarily from the Internet), used commercial internet accounts, and exploited actual vulnerabilities. The Red Team was able to crack networks and do things such as deny services; change and manipulate emails to make them appear to come from a legitimate source; disrupt communications between the National Command Authority, intelligence agencies, and military commands. Common vulnerabilities were exploited which allowed the Red Team to gain root access to over 36 government networks which allowed them to change/add user accounts and reformat server hard drives.

National Security Agency Red Team had no inside information to work with, but by engaging in extensive preliminary electronic reconnaissance of target agencies and sites prior to the attacks, they were able to inflict considerable simulated damage.

Although many aspects of Eligible Receiver remain classified, it is known that the Red Team was able to infiltrate and take control of U.S. Pacific Command computer systems as well as power grids and 911 systems in nine major U.S. Cities. Their targets included: the National Military Command Center (NMCC) in the Pentagon, USPACOM, USSPACECOM, USTRANSCOM, and USSOCOM.

In a Frontline interview, John Hamre, former Deputy Secretary of Defense 97-99, said “Well, we do know that they were very successful in penetrating DOD computers. I mean, we physically got messages from the bad guys on our own computers.”

If and when the First World Web War starts, we won’t see it until it’s too late.


1 Comment »

  1. […] The First World Web War « Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter […]

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