Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cyber Tomahawk

Cyber Tomahawk

There is no doubt that chemical weapons were used in Syria.  There is also no doubt that this should not be ignored. A response to the action must be swift and debilitating.  Although there are a great many good arguments on both sides of this issue there are methods that many do not consider.  This article is about one of the methods that can be used that are outside the conventional military response.

First, what do we know about Syria?  Although Syria has been embroiled in a +2 year civil war it still has certain portions of its infrastructure intact.  These include basic communications, power, and military targeting and guidance systems.

Second, what do we know about these systems?  Operations by non-government supported individuals have demonstrated that Syria has not spent much time or effort in securing these systems.  To be fair that is true of most computer systems in general, but Syria appears to have many holes that have been penetrated.

Third, what do we know about the capabilities of the U.S. and others who support a retaliatory strike?   Operations that have been conducted in other locations prove the ability of government supported teams to not only penetrate, but to also take control of systems within “protected” networks.  A strike directed at the electronic infrastructure of Syria is well within the capabilities of these groups.

Fourth, what is the potential fallout of this type of strike?  This is the complicated part of the equation.  No guarantee can be made that this type of attack would not result in non-combatant casualties. However, this type of attack would not result in the numbers of associated casualties that a conventional attack would. 

Fifth, would the attack cripple Syria? That depends on the level and depth of the attack.  It would create a great deal of havoc that could last weeks, and even months. Of course that is dependent on the aggressiveness of the attack. It would not keep the Syrians from launching another chemical attack, but the realization of the damage caused by a cyber attack would certainly make them hesitant to do so.

Sixth, what dangers exist to our own networks and future cyber attacks?  Everyday our enemies are attempting to penetrate our electronic systems. Would an enemy be emboldened to strike back?  In this case I am not talking about Syria, they have a very limited capacity to do so.  Other enemies would become more aware of possible vulnerabilities and learn from the attack, which would allow them to further harden their own networks.  This is true of everyday hacking attempts.

The final analysis of using a Cyber Tomahawk to strike Syrian infrastructure would indeed do substantial damage in the short term, and send a clear message to the Syrian’s, it would not cripple the regime in the long term. While the cyber attack would reduce the exposure of U.S. forces, it would not eliminate the danger posed to non-combatants in Syria. As with any attack other enemy forces would learn about our capabilities, but this is not critical as you may think. 

Questions still exist as to the objective of a strike on Syria. These objectives must be clearly known by our forces (not our public) before determining the best course of action.  Given the fact that we have lost the initiative and any chance of surprise this type of attack may be the only viable option.

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