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Next war will begin in cyberspace, experts predict

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Feb. 27, 2009) -- Networks that were once separated will soon be melded together, requiring a combined effort to defend the information flow, Defense cyberspace experts said Thursday.

"Network-centric warfare means it is all connected today," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege Jr., now chairman of the Deloitte Center for Network Innovation and director of Deloitte & Touche LLP.

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"No longer are we looking individually at military departments and agencies going it alone," Raduege said. "It has to be an integrated, coordinated effort across the Department of Defense and the intelligence community."

Raduege spoke during a panel discussion before an audience of Soldiers, foreign military officers and members of the defense industry Feb. 26, at the Association of the United States Army's Institute of Land Warfare Winter Symposium and Exposition in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Discussion by panel members focused on cyberspace, information warfare, and electronic warfare. Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, moderated the panel.

"Network convergence: that is one of the most important things that is going to happen to us as an Army, as a military community, and as a nation," Alexander said. "When we talk about network convergence, if you think about what is happening on the global network, the change is significant -- order of magnitude changes every three or four years."

The general said the Army must work to train warriors to fight in the cyber environment.

"What we need from the Army is we train Soldiers how to operate in a network environment, how to do the collection, how to do the attack, how to do the defense, so they can operate in an FCS (Future Combat Systems) environment while their adversaries are doing the same things," he said.

The next war will begin in cyberspace, Alexander said.

"If you think about it, phase zero of the next war, I think, is going to be in this domain," he said. "Phase zero will be in cyberspace first. And that is where we have to win. We cannot afford to lose that."

Alexander also said Soldiers need to be aware that the enemy is watching them, even if they think they aren't worth looking at.

"What you say ... what you type, others can get. And there are other ways that the enemy can come at you. You need to think about cyberspace as a form of warfare that can be used against you, to collect on you, to target you, to blow up devices around you, and to initiate those devices," Alexander said. "You are vulnerable -- don't think they are not interested in you. There are 1.3 billion Chinese. They are interested in what we do and say, and when we are in the field, the adversary is very interested."

Timothy L. Thomas, senior analyst, United States Army Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., spoke about the advances the Chinese have made in cyber and information warfare.

"How good are these guys? They really and truly do look at us and really and truly do understand us," he said. "If you get to Beijing or Shanghai, take a visit to a Peoples Liberation Army military bookstore. You will be stunned at the number of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard manuals that have been translated into Chinese and are available for sale."

Thomas said the Chinese have applied strategies to their use of cyberspace that are very different than what Americans are familiar with.

"Here's a thought most Americans won't be familiar with: how do you use a packet of electrons as a stratagem? And what is a stratagem? It is an attempt to deceive someone, to deceive their perception," he said.

Thomas said the Chinese may apply a strategy like "kill with a borrowed sword," to their use of cyber warfare. Such an attack may involve running packets of information through one nation to attack another. They may also combine '"make noise in the east, attack in the west" with another stratagem "exhaust the enemy at the gate, attack him at your ease."

"You might have an onslaught of scans on the Pentagon, when really the focus was Silicon Valley," Thomas said. "They are really adept at using packets of electrons in ways that we might not think."

Thomas said there are two important things about Chinese thought processes that should keep Americans up at night.

"One well-known Chinese strategist wrote that borders and resources no longer matter," he said. "What matters is financial flows. The more China buys up our debt, the more influence they may have in this arena -- we need to keep a close eye out here."

The second thing, he said, is that the Chinese view strategy differently than Americans view strategy. Where Americans may summarize strategy as "ends, ways and means," he said the Chinese look at things differently.

"They look at the world ... or a battlefield situation in a comprehensive way," he said. "What they do is assess the objective factors they see. This might be our science and technology level, this might be how much of our budget we spend on defense, this might be where our forces are located. These are objective factors. Then, subjectively, they look at how do you manipulate these things. This is to them the essence of strategy."

Raduege said that the threat from cyberspace is real, and that there are already real-world examples that can be looked at for study. Such attacks, he said, include the Russian cyber attack prior to invasion of Chechnya in 2002 and cyber attacks against Estonia in 2007.

"That is when cyber attacks were used but without physical aggression," Raduege said. "And Kyrgyzstan -- just earlier this year -- a directed denial of service attack shutting down two out of four of their ISPs for 10 days or so, where they lost 80 percent of their Internet capability to the west.

"Those are threats, they are real, and it is happening," Raduege said. "It is out there."

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