Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cyber Warfare a WMD?

Some comments on the BBC story on USCybercom, which I picked up from USCybercom Watch:
"Not everyone is convinced of USCybercom's military value. One US official at the London conference said that if cyber warfare was a WMD it was only a weapon of "mass disruption, not destruction"."
Only, indeed. While I agree that the effect of cyber warfare is more disruptive than destructive, I cannot agree with the implication this quote seems to make. Just because you cannot blow things up with something does not mean that it is not important. ENIGMA, anyone? Actually, the example by Professor Kuehl in the beginning (bomb v cyber op) illustrates the benefit of cyber very well.

Secondly, military value does not equal WMD. Infantry is not considered a WMD, so surely it cannot have military value? Clearly, this is nonsense. However, I am afraid I am doing injustice to the unnamed speaker at the conference, who may have had something entirely different in mind.

Thirdly, let's forget about the whole WMD thing. It overly complicates issues by raising emotions from nothing. Cyber operations can and do happen every day and and we do not see "mass destruction" in the headlines. Yes, in theory, a cyber attack could have global and devastating effects (for example, by creating a cascading failure in the power grid), but this is a fringe case. Most cyber operations would be far more limited in scope, aiming for operational/strategic effects through tactical level cyber operations. And as for battlefield damage, cyber operations are perhaps best viewed as a way to maximise the effects of kinetic/thermic/EM weapons.

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