• United States



Cyber-Warfare: U.S. Military Hackers and Spies Prepare to Knock the World Offline

Sep 08, 20104 mins
CyberattacksData and Information SecurityHacking

Where does privacy fit in cyber-warfare? U.S. military hackers and spies get ready to knock the world offline by deceiving, denying, disrupting, degrading and destroying.

Theoretically, the world is engaged in a hidden global war that is being fought on a dark virtual battlefield. On October 1st, in the cyber domain, 1,000 U.S. military hackers and Internet spies will get down to the business of cyberwar.

According to The Washington Post, Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the Pentagon’s new Cyber Command, stated, “We have to have offensive capabilities, to, in real time, shut down somebody trying to attack us.”

The Washington Post also reported, that Defense Department documents show the agency is developing weapons capabilities such as tools that would allow for the “attack and exploitation of adversary information systems” that can “deceive, deny, disrupt, degrade and destroy” data and information systems.

“Right now, more than 100 foreign intelligence organizations are trying to hack into the digital networks that undergird U.S. military operations,” William Lynn III, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, published in Foreign Affairs journal (September/October 2010). “The Pentagon recognizes the catastrophic threat posed by cyberwarfare, and is partnering with allied governments and private companies to prepare itself.”

For many years now, the public has heard of a great cyberwar looming over us. In 2007, security expert Bruce Schneier wrote about cyber attacks, saying, “But short of an act of war, we’re far safer with a legal system that respects our rights.” Schneier recently called the Pentagon’s cyber-offense as the new cyber-defense, “beyond stupid.”

In 2009, Shawn Henry, assistant director of the FBI’s cyber division, told a conference in New York that terrorist groups want to cause an online 9/11, “inflicting the same kind of damage on our country, on all our countries, on all our networks, as they did in 2001 by flying planes into buildings.” For years, U.S. security experts have warned of  “cybergeddon, in which an advanced economy — where almost everything of importance is linked to or controlled by computers — falls prey to hackers, with catastrophic results.”

The 9/11 attacks changed everything for anyone living in the USA as well as anyone wanting to travel to or through the states. Of course we don’t want terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, but the War on Terror and the Patriot Act forever changed U.S. citizens’ privacy rights. What more might change in regards to our privacy in the name of security after October 1? The Washington Post reported that is when “1,000 elite military hackers and spies under one four-star general” become operational.

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander doesn’t want U.S. citizens to worry about our privacy. eSecurity Planet reported that Alexander vowed that a citizens’ privacy will never be compromised. At the O’Reilly Media Gov 2.0 Summit, Alexander stated, “As the director of NSA and the commander of U.S. Cyber Command, I have an obligation to the law and to the American people to ensure that everything we do in cyberspace preserves and protects our civil liberties and operates legally under the constitution, while concurrently conducting our mission.”

Alexander added, “Preserving those rights is not an added-on activity or something we do because we have to. It is a core tenant the way we conduct our business all around, cyber included. That is an obligation that is never compromised.”

At the Gov 2.0 Summit, eSecurityPlanet reported on Alexander mentioning that the U.S. Cyber Command operates in close partnership with the NSA while also providing support to DHS. But remember, citizens, as the U.S. gets ready to knock the world offline, you are not to be concerned that your right to privacy or your civil liberties will suffer or come under fire. It’s not like government agencies would ever trash our privacy, freedom, or civil liberties. It’s not like it ever happened before. It’s not like “they” would lie to us. Oh wait

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.