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  • New Tactics For Cyber Combat
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 7:31 PM on Jan 22, 2010

    The U.S. Air Force has video that shows how a few lines of software can violently destroy a large, sophisticated piece of machinery.

    The selectively-shown clip shows a two-megawatt electrical generator being subjected to the strain of having its circuit breakers recycled on and off every three milli-seconds. Within a minute it starts smoking and bursts into flames and, finally, destroys itself.

    That conflagration was the result of a network attack by “22 lines of software” launched from about 1,000 miles away, says Lt. Gen. William Lord, the Air Force’s chief of war-fighting integration and chief information officer. The attack was subtle and fast enough that the operator at the electrical generating end of the circuit was unaware anything had happened. Meanwhile the operator at the receiving end was standing in the dark asking what happened, he says.

    “That is non-kinetic power producing a kinetic effect,” Lord says. “If you turn out the lights in a building, that’s one way to get all the people out into the street without bombing it. It also illustrates our desire to stop that kind of effect.”

    Operators at Creech AFB, Nev. are flying Predator UAVs 9,000 mi. away and -- Air Force officials now know
    -- generating full-motion video downlinks that an enemy can intercept and use.

    “We need to pay attention to that kind of complaint,” he says. “We need to protect and defend parts of the network so that our forces can continue network centric operations [during a cyber attack]. That’s the price of admission. Protecting the network is a ship that sailed 5-6 years ago. Now we have to learn to fight through attacks [while operating on a] network that the enemy is already in. We can’t afford to shut down the network every time it is attacked. We live on the network, so that requires a defense in depth.”

    As a result, Air Force cyber warriors are redefining their tactics. Instead of defending the network, they are defending the work that network does – the data and the applications.

    “What is an enemy?” Lord asks. “It may be other pieces of the network, a 12 year old hacker, cyber criminals or terrorists. Cyber crime is a $2 trillion per year activity. With stolen identifies they can hide in the noise of millions of pieces of traffic on the network. There are 100,000 to 1 million attempted penetrations of the Pentagon every day. Some of them are generated from within the network.”

    Tags: ar99, cyberwar, GenLord

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