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  • When is Cyberattack Not EW? Perhaps Never.
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 7:46 PM on Mar 28, 2012

    There is a debate in the Pentagon about where electronic warfare ends and cyberwarfare begins. Those most immersed in the subjects say there is no line, just a continuum that dates back decades to the 1970s when air defense systems were being spoofed by EW pods on fighters.

    “Cyber is the message,” says a veteran electronic attack specialist who was also involved in developing radars for the F-15, F-16 and F-35. “Then you need a conveyance – an electromagnetic signal – to get it into the target system.

    An example is the EC-130 Compass Call electronic attack aircraft when it is “spoofing” enemy air defense systems by offering up false targets, sometimes thousands of them.

    “I’m putting a cyber-signal into the emission that makes the target [sensor] think the signal is something else – perhaps a group of approaching aircraft,” the specialist says. “Cyber is what happens when the spoofing signal gets to the receiver of the target network. That receiver may see false signals or it may provide an access port that you can get information out of [with malware].”

    As EW has developed into cyberwarfare, “We have taken down networks by contaminating and flooding them until they are useless,” he says. “Compass Call did it by using an emitted signal and accessing through an aperture [usually through an antenna on the target system].”

    The only thing new about cyberattack is the Internet venue, researchers say. The difference in the approach to penetrating is that instead of using an emitted signal, it is through “some fool plugging in an infected thumb drive, using a contaminated disc or leaving an access port open,” the specialist says. “If a network on the Internet gets access to a network that is not on the Internet, suddenly you have a gateway” that can be exploited by hackers and malware.

    Tags: ar99, cyber, EW

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