The Empire Strikes Back

The “Rebel Alliance” is clearly not the only beneficiary of the information revolution. Today’s Wired reports that U.S. military officials seeking to boost the nation’s cyberwarfare capabilities are looking beyond defending the Internet: They are developing ways to launch virtual attacks on enemies.

“What do we consider to be an act of war in cyberspace?” asked Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder Jr., who heads the Air Force’s cyberoperations command. “The military is not going to tend to do that (use virtual strike capabilities) until you cross some line that constitutes an act of war.”

As the military increasingly relies on networks and computer systems to communicate and coordinate conventional operations, the U.S. Air Force is planning to establish by October a Cyber Command for waging a future war that is fought not only by land, sea and air but also in cyberspace.

Already, the Chinese government has been suspected of using the Web to break into computers at the Defense Department and other U.S. agencies in what was dubbed Operation Titan Rain. Since 2001, Chinese “hacktivists” have organized attacks on and defaced U.S. Web sites to oppose what they call the imperialism of the United States and Japan.

Forensics capabilities also are being developed to identify who is attacking, even if the attacker tries to hide by spoofing the identity of packets and rerouting them through intermediary computer servers. That way, the United States can make a credible threat of retribution.

Stay tuned for the next episode: Return of the Jedi?

Patrick Philippe Meier

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