The real exposure to information warfare or cyberterrorism attacks exists within the private sector. To that end, I said the following when interviewed by CNN in January 2000: “If you look at the likely targets of an attack by an adversary against the United States, it’s not going to be the military computers. It’s going to be the private sector infrastructure targets, the major telecommunications switches, the major public power grids.”
As We Begin New Century, Pentagon Prepares for War of Future
Aired January 5, 2000 – 8:28 p.m. ET
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JIM MORET, CNN ANCHOR: As we begin a new century, the Pentagon is preparing for war of the future. U.S. military officials announced today they’re working on plans to go high-tech by going after an enemy’s computer systems.
Military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre reports.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the future, up-close air strikes, like the ones conducted against Yugoslavia last year, could be replaced by keystrokes at a cyberwarfare center, safely tucked away at the U.S. space command in Colorado. After all, why risk pilots to bomb rail lines, power grids or communications centers if a digital assault on enemy computer networks controlling them can accomplish the same thing, with little chance of killing military or civilian personnel.
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, U.S. SPACE COMMAND: If you can degrade an air defense network of an adversary through manipulating ones and zeros, that might be a very elegant way to do it as opposed to dropping 2,000 pound bombs on radars.
MCINTYRE: In fact, CNN has learned the U.S. military tried to do just that during NATO’s air war in Yugoslavia last spring, without much success. The problem was Yugoslavia didn’t have a sophisticated computer network to attack, and the still-classified U.S. operations were extremely limited, according to Pentagon sources.
(on camera): Another problem is right now, the Pentagon has no clear-cut policy on cyberwarfare. This legal opinion, issued by top Pentagon lawyers during the bombing of Yugoslavia, warns U.S. commanders that indiscriminate computer attacks, say against banks, stock markets and even universities, might be considered war crimes. So, along with the new tools, the Pentagon is working on new rules.
(voice-over): And then there’s the blowback. Will hacking into enemy computers simply invite retaliation against the United States? Not just military systems, which are well defended, but corporations and local governments, which are not.
MATTHEW DEVOST, DIRECTOR, TERRORISM RESEARCH CENTER: If you look at the likely targets of an attack by an adversary against the United States, it’s not going to be the military computers. It’s going to be the private sector infrastructure targets, the major telecommunications switches, the major public power grids.
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, U.S. SPACE COMMAND: That’s obviously a very big worry. We are probably I think without question the country that is most dependent on information technology.
MCINTYRE: So far, the U.S. Space Command is only responsible for computer defense, but officials say by later this year, the cyberwarriors may be authorized to draw up attack plans, that could be ready for the next war.
Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.