After several years of cyberattacks on Western countries (from China and Russia among other countries) the United States has decided to increase the sophistication of American cyber defense (New York Times, April 28, 2009). So far only states have had the capacity to wage cyber warfare but the growing resources of the international terrorists may open the door for guerrilla type of attacks. The vulnerability of Wall Street is obvious and bringing down the the electric power grids of the larger Western nations is a threat as well.

Attacks to blind air traffic controllers and perhaps military aerospace defense networks could be reality in the future. Cellphone towers, emergency-service communications are other attack targets. The Chinese are already working within American electricity grids according to military sources.

Like always the best defense may be to attack. This thinking has lead to a debate if the lessons of “mutual assured destruction” during the Cold War can be applied to cyberwar. A recent report from the American National Research Council has argued for a US offensive cybercapability.

A new term in the strategic debate is “hybrid warfare”. It means that attacks via Internet could be launched as a warning or pave the way for traditional military attacks. Georgia was the target of Russian cyberwar. The financial crisis that began in 2008 is offering the future cyberattacker a playbook. There is a possibility that the same kind of infrastructure could be built around Western cyber-defense as was built for nuclear weapons in the 1940s and 1950s.

The next step of attacks could be from “cyber terrorism”. Although the gravest threat today is from nation states (mainly China) computer savy, well financed global guerrillas could hire professional hackers to create havoc in the West, especially focusing on “the main enemy”, United States.

What has been called “networks of effective social organizations” has been studied since the 1990s (John Arquilla and DavidRonfeldt, The Advent of Netwar (RAND, 1996), John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, eds., Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy (RAND, 2001). See also Thomas Rid’s article, “War 2.0” in Hoover Institution’s Web Special in February 2007). On “Cyber-Mobilization” note Audrey Kurth Cronin, “Cyber-Mobilization: The New Levée en Masse,” Parameters (Summer 2006). The EU is doing its own cyberwar studies but is behind the United States although the large countries like Great Britain, Germany, and France are certainly in focus of the coming global cyber guerrilla.


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