U.S. Air Force Prepares for War in Cyberspace

By Anna Schecter

Jul 26, 2007 2:18pm

The United States Air Force is actively seeking "cyberspace attack scenarios," according to documents posted on a government Web site for contractors. The attack strategies should "disrupt, deny, degrade, destroy or deceive an adversary’s information system," according to the Air Force Requests for Information (RFIs) obtained by ABC News.  Experts say this move marks a change in the traditionally secret world of cyber warfare.  "This is a significant development," said Amit Yoran, former White House cybersecurity czar.  "Historically cyber warfare remained in the very classified arenas of government." Marine Gen. James Cartwright told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year that the Air Force’s new Strategic Command is charged with conducting cyber attacks in support of assigned missions. Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. "Cyberspace has emerged as a war-fighting domain not unlike land, sea and air," said Cartwright. Experts say so much of military logistics are dependent on computer systems that any kind of disruption would give the attacker an advantage. Richard Clarke, former White House counterterrorism czar and an ABC News consultant, said there is a fine line between cyber espionage and warfare. "One is passive intelligence collection, which can be done by spy agencies; and the other is warfare which supposedly is to be done by the Air Force and others," he said. Clarke said frequently the only difference between espionage and warfare is a couple of key strokes.  "If you have broken into something in order to steal information from it, then you don’t have to do much more in order to bring down that network," he said. A spokeswoman for the Air Force’s Cyberspace Command said they are still working out issues regarding what the military legally can and cannot do to adversaries’ cybersystems. Yoran said both Iraq wars had cyberfronts, but they were kept secret. Other countries have weathered cyber attacks attacks as well. Earlier this year Estonia claimed that state-sponsored Russian hackers had attacked official Web sites in retaliation for the removal of a Soviet-era monument in its capital, Tallinn.

Russia has denied the allegation. Government e-mail and private online banking had to be shut down temporarily while telecommunications companies and news organizations were also affected. Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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