By Noah Shachtman
|Troops update security software at Barksdale Air Force Base. Courtesy of USAF
There was a time, not all that long ago, when the U.S. military wouldn’t even whisper about its plans to hack into opponents’ networks. Now America’s armed forces can’t stop talking about it.
The latest example comes from the U.S. Air Force, which announced its interest in methods “to destroy, deny, degrade, disrupt, deceive, corrupt or usurp the adversaries [sic] ability to use the cyberspace domain for his advantage.” But that’s only one item in a long list of “Cyberspace Warfare Operations Capabilities” that the Air Force would like to possess. The service, in its request for proposals, also asked for the “ability to control cyberspace effects at specified times and places,” as well as the “denial of service on cyberspace resources, current/future operating systems, and network devices.”
The Air Force says it will spend $10 million on the effort, mostly for short programs of three to 12 months; the service wants its Trojans and worms available, ASAP. And they should be available to both the top brass and to the “operational commander,” too. In other words, cyber strikes shouldn’t just be the prerogative of the president, to be launched at only the most strategically important moments. Malware should be a standard component of a local general’s toolkit.
These digital weapons could even be deployed before a battle begins. The Air Force notes that it would like to deploy “technologies/capabilities” that leave “the adversary entering conflicts in a degraded state.”