Posts Tagged ‘ war ’

Stuxnet: Scourge of industry and harbinger of new era of war

Well, now that Colbert’s brought it up, I feel that it’s time to talk about the most intriguing development in cyberspace: the mysterious Stuxnet worm. Because I’m too cheap to add the upgrade which would allow me to post this video directly, you can watch the whole interview at the Colbert Nation. It gives a good basic primer on what Stuxnet does, and you should check out this article on Symantec if you want a more technical explanation. Whatever your level of interest in the nitty-gritty, you cannot deny that this is a very, very cool tactic.

That being said, however, Stuxnet has are some very serious implications for international security and the evolving concept of cyber warfare. David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security:

COLBERT: “Why won’t anyone take credit for these? We know they’re our enemies.”

ALBRIGHT: “It’s an act of war.”

COLBERT: “Is it really, though?”

ALBRIGHT: “They destroyed 1,000 centrifuges in Natanz through Stuxnet. The Iranians didn’t act like it was an act of war; but if they destroyed 8,000, it could’ve been seen as an act of war.”

As The Economist notes, there are limitations to this type of attack, but in the future such attacks could be construed as an act of overt war, possibly leading to actual armed conflict. Why could it be considered an act of war? Because it does real damage.

AMANPOUR: “Is it an act of war? And what is the consequence? Where is the other shoe?”

ALBRIGHT: “First shot was Stuxnet. What’s the second shot? I mean, what are the Iranians gonna do? Are they gonna launch a cyberattack against us? Very vulnerable. We have a lot of industrial facilities that are not well protected that could be attacked in some kind of cyberattack by a country like Iran. So, before I think we go down this path, I do think we need to discuss it. Figure out is this the best way forward. It may be. It may be this is better than any military strike. No one died. And maybe it makes sense to go this way. But we may get attacked, too. And we need to think about that.”

In my mind, this raises several important questions: First, at what point does an attack such as this fall into the realm of “warfare”? Does it depend on the target? Does it depend on the progenitor (e.g., a state versus a group of hackers)? Does it depend on the amount of “damage”? Second, how do you deal with the problem of attribution? Since cyberattacks are difficult to trace and can potentially come from multiple sources, holding a particular government or group responsible can be difficult. As Ben O’Loughlin at Duck of Minerva puts it: “Who has the technical expertise, political will and diplomatic savvy to draw up laws for a world of crowdsourced armies and weaponized software?” Finally, what are the terms of escalation? At what point does one respond to a cyberattack with a conventional attack?

These are questions which military doctrines must address. Although by no means comprehensive, they do at least provide a starting point for thinking about a new age of cyber warfare.

How best to honor our service members?

The Obama administration has proposed an expanded budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2011. It has yet to be approved. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki tells of the department’s expanded capbility to provide benefits. Yet new claims rise even faster. Veterans diagnosed with PTSD no longer have to prove that it was from combat-related stress, and there are more than 3500 government PTSD specialists and 150 hospitals around the country with trained therapists. 50% of veterans still avoid seeking treatment.

So how best to honor our service members?

First, let your veterans know that you care; that you value their sacrifice and will support them in readjusting to life after war, no matter what that entails. Respect them just the same.

Second, make sure that the new Congress also stands by our veterans. Riding a wave of popul(ist)ar support, many legislators feel their sole goal is to cut “wasteful” government spending. There is waste, but the VA is not one such agency. It certainly has its problems, as a brief overview of the comments on the VA’s maiden blog will reveal. But where else do veterans have to turn if these programs are cut? 100,000 homeless veterans will have a hard time finding private support of the sort they need. Write your congresspeople and demand that they approve the new budget for the VA. Insist that the issue isn’t simply about more or less spending, but about wiser spending. Our veterans deserve at least as much.

And just a little personal wish for the future of our returning veterans:

I would like to see programs which not only provide physical and mental health services and grants for education, but programs which help veterans reorient their thinking to reflect life in a large, relatively democratic, and differentiated society. Our military rightly teaches men and women confidence and boldness in decision-making; indeed such an attitude is necessary when going into a combat situation. But life in civil society is far more clumsy and uncertain. Too often I have heard former service members make sweeping pronouncements regarding what is “right” based solely on the fact that they were in the military, even though what they were declaiming was at best only very tangentially related to military service. In short, while it is important that soldiers be taught how to act decisively in combat, it is equally as important that they be taught how to weigh valid and competing perspectives and not just boldly go with what their instincts tell them. Then they participate more fully – and indeed be leaders – in our communities, rather than become sullen and resentful of a society which they feel rejects them.

Why We Can’t Just Leave Afghanistan

For those of you who are unequivocally and unquestioningly anti-war, do you really want to leave the region in the hands of a regime so insecure it would execute a 7 year-old boy?

Regardless of whether or not you supported the initial invasion, the fact of the matter is that we are there, and we now have a moral responsibility to establish some measure of security for the mass of innocent civilians who would again be terrorized under Taliban rule.