Science and War: Information Warfare

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The war of the future may not be fought with missiles and tanks, but with computer viruses and logic bombs, and U.S. soil may no longer be safe from outside attacks.

Information warfare is a strategy for undermining a military enemy’s data and information systems, while defending and leveraging one’s own information edge. This type of war has no front line; potential battlefields are anywhere networked systems can be accessed –oil and gas pipelines, electric power grids, telephone switching networks, etc.

The United States is the most advanced nation in the world in cyberspace, but this may also make it the most vulnerable to information attacks. Almost everything the U.S. military does–from designing weapons and guiding missiles to training, and mobilizing soldiers–depends upon computer-driven information networks.

Information warfare can take countless forms: trains and planes can be misrouted and caused to collide, stock exchanges can be sabotaged by electronic “sniffers” which disrupt international fund-transfer networks, and the signals of television and radio stations can be “jammed” and taken over and used for a misinformation campaign.

If this sounds like the stuff of apocalyptic sci-fi novels, consider that many of these types of attacks are already occurring with alarming frequency. During the Gulf War, Dutch hackers stole information about U.S. troop movements from U.S. Defense Department computers and tried to sell it to the Iraqis, who thought it was a hoax and turned it down. And in January 1999, U.S. Air Intelligence computers were hit by a coordinated attack, part of which appeared to come from Russia.

     

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