– Wired – James Bamford writes that under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.
– New York Times – The elusive hacker movement known as Anonymous has carried out Internet attacks on well-known organizations like Sony and PBS. In August, the group went after its most prominent target yet: the Vatican. A nice look at how they do it…
– BBC – Hackers are alleged to have destroyed a pump used to pipe water to thousands of homes in a US city in Illinois.
– Defense Technology International – Moscow-based Aviaconversiya Ltd., makes and sells GPS jammers…to anyone who wants to buy them, no questions asked.
– Economist – Warfare is changing as weapons that destroy electronics, not people, are deployed on the field of battle.
– Los Angeles Times – Mark Bowden writes that as modern society leans more heavily on the Internet, its fragility becomes an ever greater concern.
– Vanity Fair – Last summer, the world’s top software-security experts were panicked by the discovery of a drone-like computer virus, radically different from and far more sophisticated than any they’d seen. The race was on to figure out its payload, its purpose, and who was behind it. As the world now knows, the Stuxnet worm appears to have attacked Iran’s nuclear program. And, as Michael Joseph Gross reports, while its source remains something of a mystery, Stuxnet is the new face of 21st-century warfare: invisible, anonymous, and devastating.
– New York Times – The Dimona complex in the Negev desert is famous as the heavily guarded heart of Israel’s never-acknowledged nuclear arms program, where neat rows of factories make atomic fuel for the arsenal. Over the past two years, according to intelligence and military experts familiar with its operations, Dimona has taken on a new, equally secret role — as a critical testing ground in a joint American and Israeli effort to undermine Iran’s efforts to make a bomb of its own. Behind Dimona’s barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran’s at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran’s ability to make its first nuclear arms.
– The New Yorker – Peter Maas describes how the media inflated a minor moment in a long war.
– New Yorker – Should we be worried about a cyber war?
The Economist – War in the fifth domain
Are the mouse and keyboard the new weapons of conflict?
The Atlantic – The Enemy Within
Mark Bowden writes that when the Conficker computer “worm” was unleashed on the world in November 2008, cyber-security experts didn’t know what to make of it. It infiltrated millions of computers around the globe. It constantly checks in with its unknown creators. It uses an encryption code so sophisticated that only a very few people could have deployed it. For the first time ever, the cyber-security elites of the world have joined forces in a high-tech game of cops and robbers, trying to find Conficker’s creators and defeat them. The cops are failing. And now the worm lies there, waiting …
The Atlantic – Cyber Warriors
When will China emerge as a military threat to the U.S.? In most respects the answer is: not anytime soon—China doesn’t even contemplate a time it might challenge America directly. But one significant threat already exists: cyberwar. Attacks—not just from China but from Russia and elsewhere—on America’s electronic networks cost millions of dollars and could in the extreme cause the collapse of financial life, the halt of most manufacturing systems, and the evaporation of all the data and knowledge stored on the Internet.
New York Times – In Digital Combat, U.S. Finds No Easy Deterrent
On a Monday morning earlier this month, top Pentagon leaders gathered to simulate how they would respond to a sophisticated cyberattack aimed at paralyzing the nation’s power grids, its communications systems or its financial networks. The results were dispiriting. The enemy had all the advantages: stealth, anonymity and unpredictability. No one could pinpoint the country from which the attack came, so there was no effective way to deter further damage by threatening retaliation. What’s more, the military commanders noted that they even lacked the legal authority to respond — especially because it was never clear if the attack was an act of vandalism, an attempt at commercial theft or a state-sponsored effort to cripple the United States, perhaps as a prelude to a conventional war.
The Atlantic – Why I Love Al Jazeera
Robert D. Kaplan writes that the Arab TV channel is visually stunning, exudes hustle, and covers the globe like no one else. Just beware of its insidious despotism.
Wall Street Journal – Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones
Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.
Wall Street Journal – Officers Warned of Flaw in U.S. Drones in 2004
San Francisco Chronicle – Click, click … counting down to Cyber 9/11
John Arquilla writes that when it comes to national security, our leaders are overly focused on nuclear weapons of mass destruction; more thought should be given to the looming threat of cyber “mass disruption.”
New York Times – Halted ’03 Iraq Plan Illustrates U.S. Fear of Cyberwar Risk
It would have been the most far-reaching case of computer sabotage in history. In 2003, the Pentagon and American intelligence agencies made plans for a cyberattack to freeze billions of dollars in the bank accounts of Saddam Hussein and cripple his government’s financial system before the United States invaded Iraq. He would have no money for war supplies. No money to pay troops. “We knew we could pull it off – we had the tools,” said one senior official who worked at the Pentagon when the highly classified plan was developed. But the attack never got the green light. Bush administration officials worried that the effects would not be limited to Iraq but would instead create worldwide financial havoc, spreading across the Middle East to Europe and perhaps to the United States.
US Naval Institute Proceedings – The Navy Can Handle the Truth: Creative Friction without Conflict
The hit PBS documentary Carrier gave Americans an up-close look at today’s Sailors. Navy-centric blogs offer another way to reach the public.
New York Times – Contractors Vie for Plum Work, Hacking for U.S.
The government’s urgent push into cyberwarfare has set off a rush among the biggest military companies for billions of dollars in new defense contracts. The exotic nature of the work, coupled with the deep recession, is enabling the companies to attract top young talent that once would have gone to Silicon Valley. And the race to develop weapons that defend against, or initiate, computer attacks has given rise to thousands of “hacker soldiers” within the Pentagon who can blend the new capabilities into the nation’s war planning.
New York Times – Pentagon Plans New Arm to Wage Cyberspace Wars
The Pentagon plans to create a new military command for cyberspace, administration officials said Thursday, stepping up preparations by the armed forces to conduct both offensive and defensive computer warfare.
Defense and the National Interest – Blinders
William Lind describes the importance of open source intelligence asks why is the Pentagon censoring the US military’s access to it?
New York Times – U.S. Steps Up Effort on Digital Defenses
Computers, indispensable in peace, are becoming ever more important in political conflicts and open warfare. This is the first article in a series on the growing use of computing power as a weapon.
Wall Street Journal – Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated By Spies
Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials. The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven’t sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war.
The Economist – Marching off to cyberwar
Attacks launched over the internet on Estonia and Georgia highlight the difficulty of defining and dealing with “cyberwar”