Information Warfare: Too Big To Defend


March 28, 2012:  Over the last decade the U.S. Department of Defense has become aware of elaborate Chinese plans to use Internet based attacks to support more conventional military operations. This awareness initially elicited incredulity, followed by fear, which led to a more detailed investigation of the situation. Now there are attempts to deal with the problem.

The problem is huge and more dangerous than anyone initially believed. The basic problem is that the U.S. military embraced the Internet early and has by now become one of the heaviest users on the planet. With millions of users, over a million devices connected to the Internet, and over 10,000 separate networks, the Department of Defense is also one of the most difficult Internet targets to defend. With so much exposure, and not enough money to install (and manage) adequate security, the Department of Defense has been searching for the most efficient strategy to deal with expected Chinese attacks.

This has led to studies of what kind of damage the Chinese could do and how best to cope with it. This sort of thing involves finding out what operations could be shut down (and for how long) and what impact this would have on military operations. The most vulnerable operations involve logistics. This covers everything from handling requests for spare parts, ammo, and fuel as well as requests for specialized maintenance services and control of aircraft and ships moving supplies.

Having fallback plans (or "Plan B") ready beforehand is much more effective than scrambling to cope right after your Internet systems have been interrupted or corrupted. In effect, the Department of Defense is getting into wargaming possible Internet based attacks, including working out what you do if the defenses, such as they are, don't work. This also involves non-military systems used by companies that provide logistics services (goods, transportation, and management) for the Department of Defense. At the moment, it appears that the U.S. Department of Defense computer systems are too vast to defend and that the best strategy is to figure out how to recover from the inevitable damage.


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