The United States is in the middle of an undeclared war with Iran, a cyberwar that is a much greater threat to the nation and its institutions than Al Qaeda ever was or could have been. Nations depend on computer systems and Internet communications for everything from electrical distribution to banking. Computer viruses and malware that disrupt these systems could be devastating.
The nature and seriousness of the cyberwar is revealed in two new articles, one by James Bamford in Wired magazine and the other by Michael Joseph Gross in Vanity Fair. Bamford, who has reported on the National Security Agency for more than 30 years, profiled General Keith Alexander, who is director of the National Security Agency, chief of the Central Security Service and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, which gives him command the Tenth Fleet, the 24th Air Force and the Second Army. Alexander’s aim is full spectrum dominance of cyberspace, equivalent to U.S. military domination of the air and space.
The cyberwar with Iran was begun in the mid-2000s with the launching of the Stuxnet malware system to shut down of the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz. As with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Stuxnet took warfare to a new technological level, and it was the United States that led the way.
Since then there have been other computer attacks on Iran and Iranian interests, and what appear to be counterattacks. A computer virus wiped out the memories of the Aramco computer system in Iran, and there was a “distributed denial of service” attack on U.S. banks in May. Both of these are a foretaste of what may happen. Somebody hacked into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers records on 13,991 high-hazard dams—dams whose failure could result in loss of human life.
In parallel to this, the NSA has conducted a massive and highly successful electronic espionage campaign against China, according to Matthew M. Aid in Foreign Policy magazine. This is spying, not sabotage. But it may explain why Chinese President Xi Jinping probably isn’t impressed with President Obama’s complaints about Chinese espionage. And it also may explain why Edward Snowden may think he can get political asylum in Hong Kong.
The significant thing about all this, for me, is that the United States has been plunged into virtual war in secret, without any public knowledge or debate until after the fact. We have a visible government and an invisible government, and the invisible government is the more powerful of the two.
Click on the following for more.
NSA Snooping Was Only the Beginning. Meet the Superspy Leading Us into Cyberwar by James Bamford in Wired.
The Changing and Terrifying Nature of the New Cyber-Warfare by Michael Joseph Gross in Vanity Fair.
Inside the NSA’s Ultra-Secret China Hacking Group by Mathew M. Aid in Foreign Policy.