Although attacks by governments against their own people using the Internet get more press, warfare between countries has been spreading online for some time. Most of the instances that have come to light have been viruses designed to stop, or slow down, activities in another country that the attacking country feels threatened by, or spying operations.
The United States, like most governments, has developed teams and tools to wage web warfare. But not all the tools are what we would normally think of as offensive weapons. The U.S. military, it turns out, can force a country that has disconnected itself from the Internet back online.
Prior to the Stuxnet virus, launched against Iran's nuclear industry (possibly by the U.S. and Israel), there were already other cyber-attacks. The U.S.'s own power grid was attacked via its SCADAsystems. The Chinese had an extensive online spying operation against the U.S. called GhostNet and have attacked on Google .
But what happens when a country shuts off the Internet. Recently, Egypt did so. Their motivations were internal. By shutting off the Internet in Egypt, its bosses hoped to interfere with the organization of domestic protests, keep debilitating information from getting out to a global audience and make it more difficult for panicking Egyptians to transfer their money out of the country.
But a country might do the same thing in order to keep an enemy from sending viruses, spying or committing other acts of web warfare. If that happened, most would think, game over for the Internet warriors. But not so, it seems.
According to an article on Wired, there are a host of methods by which the U.S. could restore the Internet to a country that has shut it off.
- Commando Solo: A USAF "airborne broadcasting center," the plane carries the equipment that makes it possible to broadcast on AM and FM radio and on UHF and VHF television signals. It also carries equipment that will restore Wi-Fi for the area below it. How is classified.
- FastCom: drone-based "cell towers"
- Satellites: some U.S. military satellites can provide internet access to the ground
- Dish & sat phones: sneaking in, or dropping in, small satellite dishes and satellite phones would be expensive, but possible
Psychological warfare would be a lot easier to accomplish using these tools than outright attacks.
Although we did ask contacts in the U.S. military for input on this story, they were not able to comment.
COMMENTARY: The federal government department entrusted with the job of protecting America against cyber attacks is the United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM or CYBERCOM).
On June 23, 2009, the Secretary of Defense directed the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) to establish USCYBERCOM. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was achieved on May 21, 2010.
USSTRATCOM is entrusted with global security for America: The missions of U.S. Strategic Command are:
- Deter attacks on U.S. vital interests.
- Ensure U.S. freedom of action in space and cyberspace.
- Deliver integrated kinetic and non-kinetic effects to include nuclear and information operations in support of U.S. Joint Force Commander operations.
- Synchronize global missile defense plans and operations.
- Synchronize regional combating of weapons of mass destruction plans.
- Provide integrated surveillance and reconnaissance allocation recommendations to the SECDEF.
- Advocate for capabilities as assigned.
The mission of USCYBERCOM is to plan, coordinate, integrate, synchronize, and conduct activities to: direct the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense information networks and; prepare to, and when directed, conduct full-spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains, ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries.
USCYBERCOM combines the Department’s full spectrum of cyberspace operations and plans, coordinates, integrates, synchronizes, and conducts activities to:
- Lead day-to-day defense and protection of Department of Defense (DoD) information networks,
- Coordinate DoD operations providing support to military missions;.
- Direct the operations and defense of specified DoD information networks.
- Prepare to, and when directed, conduct full spectrum military cyberspace operations.
The command is charged with pulling together existing cyberspace resources, creating synergy that does not currently exist and synchronizing war-fighting effects to defend the information security environment.
USCYBERCOM centralizes command of cyberspace operations, strengthen DoD cyberspace capabilities, and integrate and bolster DoD’s cyber expertise. Consequently, USCYBERCOM improves DoD’s capabilities to ensure resilient, reliable information and communication networks, counter cyberspace threats, and assure access to cyberspace. USCYBERCOM’s efforts also support the Armed Services’ ability to confidently conduct high-tempo, effective operations as well as protect command and control systems and the cyberspace infrastructure supporting weapons system platforms from disruptions, intrusions and attacks.
USCYBERCOM is a sub-unified command subordinate to USSTRATCOM. Service Elements include the four key branches of the U.S. military:
- U.S. Army – Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER)
- U.S. Air Force – 24th USAF
- U.S. Navy – Fleet Cyber Command (FLTCYBERCOM)
- U.S. Marine Corp – Marine Forces Cyber Command (MARFORCYBER)
U.S. Cyber Command Public Affairs
You can find additional information about the U.S. Cyber Command on WikiPedia. I can now sleep with the full knowledge that are men and women in uniform are working 24/7, 365 to protect us against cyber attacks no matter where they come from.