08 December 2011

Cyberwar is more ugly than we thought


The ongoing uncertainty about who's to blame for Stuxnet and mistaken assumptions from the investigation and reports theorizing Russian hackers had attacked an Illinois water utility last month– show that we may be technologically ready to integrate solidly damaging digital attacks with attacks using bombs or bullets.
More clearly they show that we don't know what to expect from cyberwar, even after years of being involved in at least two– one in which the U.S. has failed to stop the high-volume data thieves working for China's military, the other mixing murder, malware, bombings and sabotage in Iran.
The only thing obvious so far is that even when U.S. cyberwar capabilities vastly outmatch those of the opponent (Iran), victory is far from guaranteed.
The ongoing tussle with Iran shows we're even uncertain that full-out cyberwar would give any country the leverage to make an enemy change its behavior, or its stance on an important issue.
The ongoing scandal with Chinese data thieves and the mix-up with the Illinois water utility makes it clear the U.S. isn't even sure of its ability to keep its digital infrastructure from being invaded, or even know for sure when it has been.
It's not hard to believe we're on the cusp of a new era of cyberwar; it is hard to be confident that will be an improvement in either the destructiveness of real war or that the U.S. will be as strong in cyberspace as it is in the real world.

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