New Castle News

Editorials

May 29, 2013

Our Opinion: Report reveals that major U.S. weapons systems were compromised

NEW CASTLE — We predict America’s next major war will be waged largely in cyberspace.

Think about it. The world’s major powers have the capacity to create a nuclear holocaust on the battlefield. For decades now, the likelihood of nations destroying each other has been key to avoiding all-out war.

But the goal of warfare is to gain an advantage over an enemy. While this often involves killing and destruction, these are mainly means to an end. If war can be fought more successfully through less violent means, why wouldn’t nations pursue that option?

That’s especially true today, when world powers such as the United States, Russia and China operate with a great deal of economic interdependence. Even if one nation concluded it enjoyed a tactical advantage capable of producing a military victory, what would be the cost of a major military confrontation?

But what if warfare involved the neutralization of the opposing side’s weapons, rendering it incapable of fighting? What if your enemy’s banking systems, electric grid and other essential services could be shut down or so disrupted as to be unreliable?

What if you could do this without risking the lives of your own troops, and by producing an outcome where the infrastructure of your foe could be brought back on line quickly to promote international economic stability?

The fact is, an aggressive cyber attack, if successfully launched, can paralyze a nation.

But more than that, mastering cyber techniques for military purposes can provide other advantages. Most notably, if one nation can infiltrate the computer systems of a rival, it’s possible to gain access to designs of advanced weapons systems.

By this means, a country could either copy such weapons for their own purposes, or perhaps identify ways to render such weapons useless.

Does this sound like science fiction? Unfortunately it’s not. The Washington Post is reporting this week that hackers from China have gained access to major defense sites, where they have acquired information about many of the nation’s latest weapons.

The report is from a secret portion of a government analysis released earlier this year. The Post said it obtained a copy of the confidential information, which shows compromised weapons include those intended for missile defense in Asia, Europe and the Persian Gulf. Also on the list are advanced aircraft and naval vessels.

The public portion of the report warned that the American military is unprepared for a major cyber war. The details revealed this week by The Post help to explain how that conclusion was reached.

Many of the cyber thefts appear to have been through the computer systems of private companies. It’s a warning that government and industry in this country need to do more to shore up security.

An old saying goes that loose lips sink ships. So too do loose Internet connections.

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