Information Warfare: All Your Logistics Belong To Us

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May 3, 2007: What are the Chinese up to? Over the past year, several major American military computer networks have been hacked into. The unclassified Department of Defense network, NIPRnet, had over 10,000 gigabytes of data was downloaded from it by hackers. The perpetrators of all this are believed to be Chinese, or gangs of hackers working for the Chinese. Meanwhile, intelligence officials in the U.S. and Canada have compared notes and found that they are both being spied on with huge networks of Chinese agents.

What is the plan here? One theory is that the Chinese are targeting logistics and transportation. A lot of the data taken covered logistics, from supplier information, to the routes and carriers used to move the goods. The logistics of war is a very complex process, with millions of different items being moved. If enough items don't arrive at the right place, at the right time, very bad things happen. All military equipment needs spare parts and fuel to keep going. There are thousands of organizations involved in manufacturing and moving the needed parts. Many of these organizations depend on computer networks that are known to be vulnerable. The infrastructure of the areas around the supplier factories or transportation facilities, is also vulnerable to hacker attacks. American logistical efforts could be crippled by an "attack of a thousand cuts."

The more this scenario is examined, the more plausible, and potentially successful, it appears to be. Thousands of attacks could be made, and even if only a few percent of them succeeded, there would be hundreds of logistical bottlenecks, where the absence of one component would snowball into many major items being unavailable.

This sort of thing works both ways, but the Chinese economy is not wired into the Internet to quite the same degree as in the United States. Depending on how vulnerable American organizations turned out to be, the U.S. would probably get hurt worse.

 


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