Sunday, October 21, 2012

Warfighting: The Fight Against Cyber War

Review by Bill Doughty

Former Counterterrorism Czar Richard A. Clarke.
When Richard A. Clarke says “sometimes the boy who cries wolf can see the wolf coming from a lot farther away than anyone else,” he might be describing himself.  

Once a passionate voice for counterterrorism in the Clinton and Bush II administrations continually warning against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda -- before 9/11 -- he should now be looked upon as a Paul Revere for the 21st century.  This time the wolf is cyber warfare, defined by Clarke as “actions by a nation state to penetrate another nation’s computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption.”

Assisted by Robert K. Knake, Mr. Clarke lays out the case that the U.S. is at greater jeopardy because of its advanced technologies, reliance on a computerized grid, and -- the very thing that makes the United States strong -- our freedom and openness.

“Cyber War: the Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It” is new on the CNO’s updated Navy Professional Reading Program list.  It offers a surprising number of references to the U.S. Navy and its role in the development of cyber warfare and defense.  Clarke sees a parallel between cyber warriors and the codebreakers of World War II and what a false sense of invulnerability brings.

“Some historians believe that the U.S. Navy defeated the Imperial Japanese Navy precisely because of code-breaking skills.  Certainly the decisive U.S. victory in the Battle of Midway was due to the advanced knowledge of Japanese plans gained from code-breaking.”

Just as they played a key warfighting role in the War in the Pacific, the Navy’s aircraft carriers would be critical in a cyber war. In a hypothetical exercise, Clarke shows that if cyber war were to be declared by an enemy of the United States, carrier strike groups -- always ready to operate forward -- would respond anywhere in the world.

Today Russia, China and North Korea are actively developing cyber warfare strategies, including using civilian hackers, “hacktivists.”
The Navy trains to provide cyber security.

Clarke reminds us how quickly we can come to the brink of world war. In the late 60s, during the height of the Vietnam War, President Nixon considered bombing North Korea in response to the capture of USS Pueblo in January 1968 and the shooting down of an Air Force EC-121, in which all 31 Americans on board were killed.

In “Cyber War” Clarke mentions USS Gato, USS Baton Rouge and USS Yorktown as he gives historical examples of why the nation’s defensive strategy needs to adapt to include cyber security.

He outlines five vulnerabilities of the Internet, gives a 20-question quiz about cyber security, and offers a 3-point “defensive triad” to show how to develop “credible defense” -- a strong backbone of tier 1 ISPs, a secure power grid, and stronger defense “of defense itself.”  He describes DoD’s NIPRNET, SIPRNET and JWICS and discusses methods for adding protection to those systems.

Vice Adm. Michael Rogers, Commander, U.S. 10th Fleet/U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, 
arrives aboard USS Porter (DDG 78), June 26, 2012.  (Photo by Alex Forster)
Clarke shows how the cyber threat will inevitably be part of combat unless steps are taken to mitigate the risk.  Now, he says, the United States is greatly at risk from invisible attacks from an unseen enemy that can knock out the nation’s infrastructure silently and quickly, crippling defense and command-and-control means for preventing escalation of an all-out kinetic war.  He warns against initiating cyber warfare without understanding the potential consequences.

“If you are going to throw cyber rocks, you had better be sure that the house you live in has less glass than the other guy’s or that yours has bulletproof windows.”

Clarke ties in great military strategy thinkers Sun-Tzu, Clausewitz and Herman Kahn on the importance of defining and redefining strategies -- accepting change, innovation and new technologies as realities.  An underlying message seems to be: one cannot live in the past, and if there’s a desire to continue living in the present then be ready for future threats.

His discussion about Kahn’s deterrence theory shows the power of the pen. Kahn’s “On Thermonuclear War” and “Thinking About the Unthinkable” were widely read by global leaders in the 60s.  About Kahn, Clarke writes, “His clear matter-of-fact writing about the likely scope of destruction undoubtedly helped to deter nuclear war.”

Other writers discussed are Thomas Friedman, H.G. Wells and Barbara Tuchman.  Clarke uses movies to make his point, too: “Crimson Tide,” “Ocean’s Eleven,” “War Games,” “The Italian Job,” and “Team America: World Police.”

“Cyber War” is an easy-to-read, informative and contemporary warning and prescription from the voice of the “boy who cried wolf” -- and the man who really sees a wolf coming.

Retired Rear Adm. Donald Showers, a codebreaker from World War II, explains the beginnings of Naval Intelligence during a visit to U.S. Pacific Feet headquarters June 1, 2012. Showers was a member of the team that broke the codes to win the Battle of Midway in 1942.  (Photo by MC2 David Kolmel)

No comments: