CIA says Russia, China Build Cyber Attack Capabilites : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Wednesday February 23 4:36 PM ET

CIA Says Russia, China Build Cyber Attack Abilities

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Central Intelligence Agency said Wednesday it was picking up growing signs that countries such as Russia and China were developing tools to attack commercial computer networks at the heart of U.S. might.

``We are detecting with increasing frequency the appearance of doctrines and dedicated offensive cyber warfare programs in other countries,'' John Serabian, the CIA's ``information operations issue manager,'' told Congress.

He cited public statements by a Chinese general and a senior Russian official -- neither named in his testimony -- to illustrate what he called the importance of ``information warfare'' in coming decades.

No other country was identified by name as developing such cyber weapons. But the CIA official said, ``The battle space of the information age would surely include attacks against our domestic infrastructure.''

``Many of the countries whose cyber warfare programs we follow are the same ones that realize that, in a conventional military confrontation with the United States, they will not prevail,'' Serabian said in testimony prepared for the Joint Economic Committee.

The United States itself plans to incorporate offensive computer operations into its war-fighting arsenal after policy and legal issues are sorted out, the second-ranking U.S. military officer, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, told reporters last month.

To illustrate U.S. dependence on systems and their vulnerabilities, Serabian cited the electronic blitzes that disrupted major commercial Web sites for four days starting Feb. 8.

``Whatever their motivation, the attackers have taken the threat out of the realm of the abstract and made it real,'' he said.

Serabian said ``terrorists'' acting independently of any state sponsor also could do ``considerable harm'' with cyber tools, easily downloaded from the Internet, that largely erased their digital footprints while wreaking havoc online.

``Opportunities abound to disrupt military effectiveness and public safety while maintaining the elements of surprise and anonymity,'' he added.

Daniel Kuehl, a professor of military strategy at the Information Resources Management College of the Pentagon's National Defense University, told the panel that cyber attacks against the United States or its allies by foreign foes were inevitable.

``Eventually, a nation state will determine that the potential gains of a strategic cyber attack on U.S. economic systems -- or those of our allies and/or neighbors -- outweigh the potential risks of such actions,'' he said.

``The time to prepare defenses against such an event is now,'' he added, citing a growing body of Russian and Chinese writings on using cyberspace to cause chaos in the economy.

Fred Cohen, an information protection expert at the Energy Department's Sandia National Laboratories, testified that a well-managed U.S. intelligence network ``should be able to detect technical efforts (by a foreign foe) that could have large-scale consequences on U.S. financial systems.''

Robert Bennett, the Utah Republican who chaired a special Senate panel on the Year 2000 technology problem, said a ``new landscape'' was emerging for Congress and the nation because of the perceived mounting cyber threat.

``Attacks on American defense and industrial facilities in cyberspace are as real and dangerous as any conventional threat to economic prosperity and national security,'' said Bennett, who chaired the Joint Economic Committee hearing


-- Jen Bunker (, February 23, 2000

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