Pentagon may deploy cyber-warriors
The U.S. military have been debating whether they need to recruit cyber
warriors capable of attacking foreign IT systems. So far they have relied
on information mining and firewall technology to safeguard America’s
But the recent events in Georgia, when Tbilisi reported numerous hacker attacks, may change that. And while there is no evidence on whether the attacks were coordinated by the Russian military or so-called freelancers, the Pentagon is putting its cyberspace capabilities under revision.
Back in 2007, the U.S. Air Force decided to take cyber-warfare under its wing. The service commander, Michael W. Wynne, ordered the launch of a provisional Cyber Command. But since the sacking of Wynne following a nuclear security procedures scandal, the future of the initiative is under question.
Most other military services in the U.S. prefer to focus on using cyberspace for intelligence gathering. The most experienced branch in the area is the National Security Agency (NSA), an arm of the Pentagon that monitors foreign phone calls, e-mails and other communication. But some officials believe the NSA mission is too narrow.
"Let's not mistake intelligence collection with military operations," said Lani Kass, a senior Air Force official and former director of the service's Cyberspace Task Force. "The mission of the NSA is to collect signals intelligence, and it is very good at it. But the NSA is not a war-fighting organization."
The Air Force believe the U.S. needs offensive cyberspace capabilities as it will give the country a new weapon. In extreme scenarios, cyber-warriors may be able to commandeer enemy’s drones, disable the fly-by-wire systems used by modern fighter planes or cut power to military facilities at crucial moments.
Sceptics say the emphasis should be on defence rather than attack. They argue that spending resources on defending U.S. networks is more practical, since the American military is the most cyber-dependent armed service in the world.
"The United States, more than any other military, is a Net-centric operation," a senior official said. "Any adversary we would tend to go after - anyone we can currently foresee - wouldn't use it to the same extent. Therefore, defending that capability and making sure it is not denied to you -- that has to be critical."
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