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May 15, 2008
"Dominant Cyber Offensive Engagement" plans announced
The U.S. airforce has announced plans for a two-year, $11 million project that will seek the capability to hack into, fully control and even destroy any form of computer or network there is, in its ongoing "national cybersecurity initiative".
The Air Force Research Laboratory introduced the plans earlier this week in a a request for proposals as a "Dominant Cyber Offensive Engagement."
The request states:
Of interest are any and all techniques to enable user and/or root level access to both fixed (PC) or mobile computing platforms. Robust methodologies to enable access to any and all operating systems, patch levels, applications and hardware are of interest.
The purpose for this is clear:
...this BAA's objective includes the capability to provide a variety of techniques and technologies to be able to affect computer information systems through Deceive, Deny, Disrupt, Degrade, Destroy (D5) effects. Of interest are any and all techniques including enabling D5 effects to computers and their networks...
"...research efforts under this program are expected to result in complete functional capabilities." The request notes.
The program will also focus on a stealth approach:
Also, we are interested in technology to provide the capability to maintain an active presence within the adversaries' information infrastructure completely undetected...
...it is desired to have the capability to stealthily exfiltrate information from any remotely-located open or closed computer information systems with the possibility to discover information with previously unknown existence... Consideration should be given to maintaining a "low and slow" gathering paradigm in these development efforts to enable stealthy operation.
This approach will provide an alternative to another program being proposed under the same overall initiative that will see the airforce build its own zombie network to forcefully and openly "Carpet Bomb" any target computers or networks.
As Wired.com notes, recently the military, mirroring it's pre-emptive war strategy, has shifted to an offensive posture where cyberspace is concerned, rather than a defensive one:
in the last year or so, the tone has changed -- and become more bellicose. “Cyber, as a warfighting domain . . . like air, favors the offense,” said Lani Kass, a special assistant to the Air Force Chief of Staff who previously headed up the service's Cyberspace Task Force. "If you’re defending in cyber, you’re already too late."
"We want to go in and knock them out in the first round," added Lt. Gen. Robert Elder, commander of the 8th Air Force, which focuses on network issues.
"An adversary needs to know that the U.S. possesses powerful hard and soft-kill (cyberwarfare) means for attacking adversary information and command and support systems at all levels," a recent Defense Department report notes. "Every potential adversary, from nation states to rogue individuals... should be compelled to consider... an attack on U.S. systems resulting in highly undesireable consequences to their own security."
"Full Spectrum Dominance" has always been the military aim and exactly as it has done over land, sea and air, the military is seeking to aggressively exert it's control over cyberspace and all those who reside within that terrain.
Multiple programs are being rolled out by the Pentagon and its offshoot agencies such as DARPA, in a secret war with the internet that has been described as a $30 billion "electronic Manhattan Project".