5.29.2009

Cyber Command - A Welcome Development, but Let's Be Wary

I've followed the emergence of cyber warfare here at LIB for several years now, noting various reports of cyber attacks as they unfolded.

In that vein, I'm very pleased to see President Obama taking serious, well-publicized steps to beef up US cyber warfare capabilities.

Still, as another unelected czar is appointed and the prospect of weaving domestic surveillance gray areas arises, it's important to approach the effort cautiously.  As one source in the NYT piece linked above notes:

“It’s the domestic spying problem writ large,” one senior intelligence official said recently. “These attacks start in other countries, but they know no borders. So how do you fight them if you can’t act both inside and outside the United States?”

With the NSA and the military teaming up with the potential for operating "domestically" as part of a cyber operation, we enter a new era where foreign hack attacks on sensitive computers can finally be warded off - but the risk of abuse in domestic circles rises.

The article also refers to the somewhat philosophical or ethical debate about whether the U.S. should use cyber warfare capabilities offensively - as a sort of first strike.  The U.S. should include any cyber warfare attack abilities as options in its quiver.  If it chooses to utilize those technologies, though, it must do so with the understanding that once they're employed, the U.S. should expect a response in kind from other national governments (it's been unclear in the past few years whether Russian or Chinese government officials authorized any of the major hacks on critical U.S. targets), having lost any sort of "moral high ground" to argue against their use in warfare.