Is the Pentagon’s mobilization of a new cyber command unit effectively militarizing the internet?
The Pentagon is spending $150 million this fiscal year on a new command to lead cyberwar efforts, which are aimed principally at defending military computer networks or attacking those of the enemy.
“The United States has powerful offensive capabilities in cyberspace,” says Herbert Lin, an analyst at the National Academies,which advises the government on science and technology issues. “The question is how they should be using them.”
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said WikiLeaks’ publishing of stolen documents endangers lives and gives enemies valuable information. Assange’s lawyers say a huge file of unreleased secret material will be made public if the United States attempts to prosecute him.
Josh Rushing, of Al Jazeera asks, “Is the US contributing to the militarisation of cyberspace? Are the reports of cyber threats being distorted by a burgeoning security industry? And are the battles being waged in cyberspace interfering with the Internet as we know it?”
Cyberattacks by a nation against an enemy or another nation may be occurring but not acknowledged. The U.S. has never acknowledged attacking another computer network.
China has been suspected by the United States of attacking systems, and Iran’s nuclear facilities were infected this year by a computer worm. Experts such as software company Symantec say the Iran incident had to have been a massive undertaking involving numerous skilled computer scientists with ample resourcing.
“What hit the Iranian nuclear facilities … most people assume came from a government,” says James Lewis, a specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Some say using cyberwarfare tactics to prevent the spread of information, as in the case of WikiLeaks, would not work.
“The National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) has recommended formation of a central cyber security command on the lines of the US Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) set up last May to fight back the new generation attacks on the government’s computer systems and networks.”