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Cyber warfare – biggest threat is China overestimating its limited capabilities

September 11th, 2007 · 3 Comments ·

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Biggest threat from cyber warfare lies in the future
Predictions 2007 Predictions in earlier times
The blueprint outlines an assault against America’s aircraft battle carrier fleet with a devastating cyber attack – claims a Pentagon report made public 2007-09-05 For years after the US-led invastion was sold to the public partly on humanitarian grouns, Iraquis are suffering from a man-made catastrophe that is seen as comparable in scope to the tragedy in Darfur
Ryan Crocker, US ambassador in Baghdad (told Contress 2007-09-10)… reconcilation was slow but stated he remained hopefule that Iraq become ‘secure, stable, democtratic’ country. ‘It will not be quick. It will be uneven and punctuated by setabacks as well as achievements,’ he said.

General David Petraeus – 2007-09-10 – The ‘blueprint’ for the Iraq war outlined how hostilities would be over quickly, … the military objectives of the ‘surge’ were ‘in large measure being met’

General William Westmorland on TET (Vietnam) offensive 1968 stating that the ‘light at the end of the tunnel was in sight.’
Sami Saydjari told Congress in testimony 2007-04-25 that a mass cyber attack could leave 70 per cent of the US without electrical power for six months. Late 1970s some popular books and articles by journalists stated that the paperless office would be here by the the late 1980s but 1990s for sure – we are still working on it

So the Pentagon is claiming that China’s cyber army is preparing to march on America meaning:our lights will go out,
the internet will shut down
banks will close, and
television stations stop broadcasting

And just you know, the commuter trains in Europe will all come to a grinding halt. Our Thalys from London to Brussels or Paris will get stuck in the channel tunnel…..

People start to panic and, as looters emerge, police are unable to restore order in major centers such as Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Manila, Sydney and Warsaw. With savings out of reach, the only things of value are fuel, food and water.

Much of the above is taken from a statement and testimony provided by Sami Saydjari, president of Professionals for Cyber Defense, a non-profit organization. He was giving testimony to the US House of homeland security committee 2007-04-25 (just go down and download Sami Saydjari and other witnesses’ written submissions given to the committee):

Addressing the Nation’s Cybersecurity Challenges: Reducing Vulnerabilities Requires Strategic Investment and Immediate Action. Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology Tuesday, April 24, 2007 Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Incidentally, the signatories to Sami Saydjari’s letter written to President Bush during 2002 claim that the threats today are far worse than during 2002.


What is a fact is that we do know, overcoming technically superior militaries, one must resort to asymmetric strategies that exploit the adversary’s weaknesses.

Beijing’s strategy on military modernization is based on the premise it is dealing with a technically superior adversary. Hence, while building its technical capacity to confront the enemy head on, China also must exploit vulnerabilities. And while US technology overwhelmed an Iraqi military in the 1990 Gulf war, present Iraq crisis demonstrates that US military technology has its vulnerabilities.

China flexes its limited military muscles
Are there vulnerabilities we can exploit – see Iraq
US dependence on the internet, satellites and information-centered warfare China’s dependence on large numbers of troops

Maximum strategic damage could be attained by succeeding in taking out:banking systems,
power grids and
communications networks.

Assuming that a cyber adversary can launch a successful strategic cyber attack, why do so? For most cases, cyber attacks do not provide the kind of images that terrorist crave. From a terrorist’s perspective it would just not be satisfactory to have the mobile network go down or have the lights go out in London, UK. Instead, images such as the planes crashing into one of the World Trade towers during the 9/11 events are far more effective to create fear if not panic.

As well, if the lights go out in Hawaii it would not stop the US Pacific Fleet from sailing out of the port. Yet the dangers are such that hacking into the Pentagon’s or French computers can mean that the Chinese overestimate their capabilities. Getting into an unclassified computer system and being caught in the act is less than a stellar achievement for any proud hacker.


It took just two decades for the flimsy aircraft of 1917 to develop into the means of wreaking almost unimaginable destruction

It will take another 8-15 years to develop today’s stumbling hacker efforts into cyber attacks and cyber warfare that will do real damage. In another decade, cyber warfare could cause serious harm to our large-scale systems (e.g., telecommunication infastructure) whose greatest vulnerability is interdependence. Worst is that our economy depends on a well functioning communication structure. Just imagine if we had to be a week without our BlackBerry, a horrible scenario …. NOT.

Nonetheless, this type of threat needs to be analyzed, weighed and mediated. Propaganda-type information from the Pentagon that the media seems to re-distribute without having analyzed the report’s content properly borders on scare mongering and fails to address these issues systematically see The Times:

2007-09-08 – UK – The Times – China’s cyber army is preparing to march on America, says Pentagon

Incidentally, the report seems to be secret but many large newspapers appear to have gotten hold of it :-) or just talked to somebody who inverviewed somebody who might have seen a summary page of the report?

So how secret is this report really? ….. Pentagon manipulation of the news at its worst or best?

If you have one, please send us a copy and thanks in advance we will most certainly read it with interest.

PS. 1

A more technological capable People’s Liberation Army (PLA) does not necessarily mean a military conflict is inevitable. But surely, it would suggest that China wants to ensure it can build its economy in peace and prevent internal unrest.

PS. 2

Considering that more than 1 billion people use the internet, 79.000 attempted intrusions against government computers in the US during a year does not seem that much. Besides one has to carefully define what is meant by an attempted intrusion – which, incidentally, the Pentagon forgot to tell its favorite journalists (e.g., Financial Times).

Some of the more effective cyber snoops and vandals may not be government employees but freelancers acting perhaps with tacit official approval as could have happened in Estonia this year?

PS. 3

The potential impact of cyber-vandalism became obvious this year when Russian hackers unleashed the biggest-ever international cyber-assault on tiny Estonia, after the Baltic country caused offence by re-burying a Russian soldier from the second world war.

Denial of service attacks crippled Estonian government computers. Some breathlessly called it the first direct Russian attack on a NATO member.


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→ 3 CommentsTags: blueprint · cyber · iraq · predictions · tragedy · tunnel · warfare