US must focus on protecting critical computer networks from cyber attack

Posted By: Staff
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Washington, October 9 (ANI): A new study has suggested that the US must focus its efforts on defending its critical networks from cyber attack because it will be difficult to prevent cyber attacks on critical civilian and military computer networks by threatening to punish attackers.

"Adversaries in future wars are likely to go after each other's information systems using computer hacking," said Martin C. Libicki, the report's lead author and senior management scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

"The lessons from traditional warfare cannot be adapted to apply to attacks on computer networks. Cyberspace must be addressed in its own terms," he added.

Working against connected but weakly protected computer systems, hackers can steal information, make the systems malfunction by sending them false commands and corrupt the systems with bogus information.

The RAND study finds that military cyber attacks are most effective when part of a specific combat operation, rather than as part of a core element in a long, drawn out military or strategic campaign.

Libicki said that it is difficult to determine how destructive a cyber attack would be.

Damage estimates from recent cyber attacks within the US range from a few billion dollars to hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

The study indicates that cyber warfare is ambiguous, and that it is rarely clear what attacks can damage deliberately or collaterally, or even determine afterward what damage was done.

The identity of the attacker may be little more than guesswork, which makes it hard to know when someone has stopped attacking.

The weapons of cyber war are amorphous, which eliminates using traditional approaches to arms control.

Because military networks mostly use the same hardware and software as civilian networks, they have similar vulnerabilities.

"This is not an enterprise where means and ends can be calibrated to one another," Libicki said. "As a result, it is ill-suited for strategic warfare," he added.

Because offensive cyber warfare is more useful in bothering, but not disarming, an adversary, Libicki does not recommend the United States make strategic cyber warfare a priority investment.

He said that similar caution is needed for deterring cyber warfare attacks, as it is difficult to attribute a given attack to a specific adversary, and the lack of an ability to counterattack is a significant barrier.

Instead, according to Libicki, the US may first want to pursue diplomatic, economic and prosecutorial efforts against cyber attackers. (ANI)

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