No one but a sage can utilize espionage...
1.0 Introduction and Background
It has rapidly become possible for a small group of knowledgeable and skilled individuals to create chaos, wreak havoc, destabilize, and potentially destroy what is currently referred to as 'Western Civilization.'
Once it was possible to accomplish such goals through the removal, by various means, of the ruler of the dominant country of the 'Empire.' Rendering unto Caesar what is due him becomes moot if Caesar has been eliminated. However, the swift rise of democratized countries as the dominant powers of the world has added a certain amount of cultural resiliency, making such a manoeuvre obsolete. In its stead has arisen a new, more virulent, form of attack--such empires are now built upon economic strength, and Gross National Product [GNP] is the most critical factor to be taken into account, even regarding military strength; witness the resolution of the Cold War in favor of the U.S. and NATO forces over the Soviets and Warsaw pact forces strictly via extended economic, as opposed to military or pure ideological conflict, and such strength can be swiftly negated, as it relies upon technology. Caesar could always be quickly replaced, an economy cannot be.
Negation of an economy, and hence a country dependent upon it, is accomplished through the skilled manipulation and usage of technology in conjunction with the exploitation of the flaws--inherent, accidental, or deliberate--of a technology-based society.
An economic maxim of obvious truth is that control of the means of production implies control of a society. While the maxim has remained the same, the factors comprising it have evolved--the means of production have changed from the factory worker to the 'knowledge' worker and electricity has transformed from a unit of work to a unit of information, but then again, so has everything else (money, etc.).
Termed the Information Age of Western Civilization, it has given new possibilities and benefits to the citizens of the West, although it has left them in a completely exposed position as far as long term viability is concerned. It has created new avenues for dominance and manipulation [which is why the Japanese are trying to dominate through technology], and ultimately, the power to destroy is the power to control; technology is a sword which cuts both ways, an Achilles' Heel of the West.
'Western Civilization,' as it has evolved and currently stands, is defined by its advanced technology. Such technology is a recent development, historically speaking, and thus the window of opportunity for such an economic attack has only just opened. The combination of such 'newness' with the almost immediate dependence upon the usage of technology has created the most significantly vulnerable area of attack in the history of the culture.
The maxim 'those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it' once again plays truly in this case. For example, essentially every culture has built bridges; in fact, bridge building, masonry, goes back into the depths of time. Yet every culture, when learning to build bridges has made numerous mistakes, usually costing numerous human lives. This is the price associated with learning; tracking these developments eventually leads to the science of engineering.
The history of engineering, which builds bridges, ships, or airplanes is that of one disaster after another, but always something that can be learned from. What develops is an engineering 'rigor'performing testing and extensive analysis, and not trusting that something can be reliably done until you have actually done it.
Yet when it comes to technology, it seems that reason flew out the window. Even though you can't test code the way you can test metal or concrete's material strength, even though there are one-of-a-kind systems that were never intended to be doing the job they are forced to do, the West has passed over complete control of the critical functions holding their society together to the unreliable machines. Why? Because it was convenient, and some things (such as the large volume of phone traffic or banking transactions) just weren't possible otherwise.
The individuals 'in the know' on these problems are perfectly well aware that they can't verify the function of their technology, can't be certain that it does what they say it does reliably, and have no way of being positive that it doesn't do more than it says it does; they can't even guarantee 'bugless' code, let alone 'hardened' systems. But if nobody says that the Emperor has no clothes, maybe no one will notice. Perhaps a good example is that of the 'rules of the road'everyone knows that driving can be dangerous, yet sane drivers in sane situations will obey the common courtesies of driving (staying in the proper lane, stopping at lights and signs) even in the absence of an enforcing officer. Why? Because the potential for danger to life and limb is greater once you 'break' the rules. Here we have a similar situation--if everybody behaves and treats the systems very nicely, then they will continue to function as intended; stray outside the decorum of good behavior, and you have a disaster on your hands.
But that still leaves a vulnerable situation, an accident waiting to happen, or an opportunity looking for someone to take advantage of it if they know what they are doing.
A further note--it is only getting worse (or easier, depending on your viewpoint). Every day, more is automated, more network connections are established, more people, places, and things become dependent upon technology. Because of this, a society that is already standing on a Precipice becomes even more unsteady, stands on less firm ground, waiting to slip. Or be pushed. Remember, this isn't a case of 'going downhill'--it's a case of dropping off a steep cliff.
The advancing policies of both industry and government are actually increasing the risk the West is in; for example
- The creation of various standards (whether de facto through market clout or through imposition) does incredible damage; the major limiting factor to disease in humans, crops, and livestock has been the heterogeneous nature of the population; reduction of the technology arena to a homogeneous environment (for instance, with a major dominant hardware platform and operating system such as is occurring) only paves the way for the wreckers;
- Almost every group in the West with some interest in computers, communications, consumer products, or technology in general is pushing for the creation of a 'super datahighway' or greater connectivity; if the dreamers have their way, everybody will be connected by a tangled web of twisted pair, coaxial cable, optical fiber, microwave, radio, and even local infrared.
This bestows great access upon John Doe, but it also builds an irrevocable dependence in the economy, the way people do business, and the way the culture works; even though technology has become wide scale in the financial community only within the last decade, groups such as banks, credit suppliers, or stock brokers would be helpless without it. Now extend that to John Doe, and see how little cash money he carries, how dependent upon 'plastic' he is, and how much chaos his life will be if everything crashes.
In addition to the economic functions that advocates wish to be turned over to the new systems, there are numerous social ones--from medical care to electoral voting; the potential damage that will eventually be able to be done is beyond calculation.
No large scale organization (from 'Empire' to the human body) can exist without a fundamental bedrock of communication and infrastructure, yet we see that the expansion of the existing 'Empire' has foundations built upon sand, and worse still, we're busily at work pulling up the old granite foundation and replacing it with sandstone, all in the interest of renovation. Madness, indeed.
2.0 Operational Overview
Critical potential targets of the problem are the infrastructure of the economy. Much like a circulatory system in a human body, which provides oxygen and nourishment to the various parts, the infrastructure of an economy acts similarly. Destruction or damage to it on a massive scale causes irrecoverable harm to the basic structure and integrity of the economy. Operational techniques to carry out the 'hostile' outlined program are briefly discussed in the 'Informational' subsection of the 'NCBI' section later in this document.
Let's assume an adversary and see what they could do
2.1 Telephone Communications
Conventional communications, including voice conversations, fax, data, etc. are providing absolutely critical support for the West--without them, little could occur owing to the dependence upon the frantic 'societal pace' and sizable and diverse territory covered. This dependence includes all transactions--domestic, international, government-- yet even the most sophisticated of communication set-ups is an AT&T 3B2 UNIX minicomputer with a telephone backplane hypernetworked together as an electronic switching system. Such systems are trivially simply to disable, commonly causing cascading malfunctions on their own.
Other component parts of the communications grid are also easy targets, such as the microwave transceivers, or satellites themselves, which can be brought back down to the ground through reprogramming of their on-board but ground-controlled attitude jets (simple to do if one can grab the legitimate equipment and software used to do such). The emergency 911 and 911E systems could also be specifically targeted in advance to contribute to the impact of the impending chaos.
Disabling the telephone system also, as collateral damage, disables all ancillary services which depend on communications via the systempolice, fire, emergency medical care, alarms of all kind but primarily of security systems, power control, water, sewage regulation, etc.
Take as a case study the mishap which occurred in New York on Martin Luther King Jr. Day only a few years ago. Cascading failures of the switching systems caused communications havoc for the 'long lines' of the Eastern Seaboard. It is still inconclusive whether outside interference contributed to the failure, but the cost was enormous, even on a Federal holiday.
Power generation plants are manually controlled, thus making them fairly resistant to tampering and manipulation from informational warfare attacks. This is primarily due to their having been designed and constructed during a period in which fail-safes were taken more seriously, as well as the potential for civil unrest, coupled with the fact that most are pre-'information age'. However, the power distribution and regulation systems are electronically controlled, making them potential targets.
If a hostile party wished to indulge in physical operations to augment the informational warfare, American power generation targets are 'easy pickings' from that stand-point. Security designs are remedial, coupled with poor implementation. For example, one nuclear power plant TNG principals analyzed had no 'forcing factors' requiring a confrontation with security systems or forces to destroy the plant; security is geared to fit regulation requirements and keep protesters away, rather than prevent an actual attack. The security precautions also seemed, absurdly enough, to take for granted that an attack would be aimed at taking control of the plant, rather than simply destroying it (which could be accomplished from outside the security perimeter with three people and costing less than $10,000 [U.S., 1993 dollars]).
Making direct attacks on the financial community that the West depends upon is quite easy--the emphasis in this community, even when security was considered worthwhile (security does not contribute to the 'bottom line' of quarterly profit and loss statements, and is thusly considered a waste of capital), it has been focused on prevention of theft, not against malicious attack. Even then, theft is covered by insurance, and the amount stolen comes nowhere near the amount necessary to retrofit more security into the systems; it is considered acceptable loss.
Obvious initial targets are the large funds transfer networks, such as SWIFT; domestic banking, and the now common method of access, the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM), is easy to cripple. Also targeted could be the credit system, including credit cards and credit bureaus (TRW, CBI). The average individual in Western Civilization has grown dependent upon plastic and 'vapor' money of the Electronic Age; commonly they have less than $100 (U.S., 1993 dollars) in negotiable tender on their person, trusting in their ability to quickly and conveniently get what they need.
This is all, however, just icing upon the cake. It may be possible, with a little help from the systems already in place, to destroy the world's currency, capital, and equity markets in a matter of minutes. As the speed of technology came into play in the financial world, the brokerages and financial organizations quickly took advantage of it; it is now a competitive requirement for massive computing power to be constantly watching all the markets of the world, performing analyses, making decisions, and executing orders entirely without the approval or intervention of a human being. Such systems, called 'program trading,' have trillions of dollars at work directly, not counting the leverage gained from their positions; insertion of the right type of orders into the right machines could be devastating and trigger worldwide panic and financial collapse (for instance, the Japanese brokerages selling all their U.S. dollar positions, bonds, and stocks, coupled with reactionary orders in the American trading systems). It is odd that with all the speculation of disaster regarding the removal of humans from the decision loop for military technology, no one recognized the worse impending danger on the economic side.
Western Civilization has become so specialized that it is no longer has self-sustaining population centers; once basic logistics are disturbed, such centers of population are at great risk. Aviation is simple to paralyze; air traffic control systems are essential for any civilian flight. For sheer nuisance value, collateral systems such as the SABRE scheduling system could also be targeted. Shipping, trucking, and rail transport can all be crippled through their scheduling and coordination systems.
[The topic of transportation brings a small digressionan analysis of airport anti-terrorism security measures leads to interesting conclusions. It would be educational for the reader to consider the focus and results of terror attacks involving air travel pre- and post- introduction of airport metal detectors. Security measures seem to only have worsened the situation; how does such a discovery extrapolate to the introduction of thermal neutron analysis devices? TNG principals have analyzed the TNA device and conclude that the next generation of such terrorism will involve unary or binary chemical weapons, or non-nitrogen 'firestorm' type weapons, such as thermite (ignited by magnesium triggered by sodium metal set off by a water pressurization fuse). The more things change, the more they remain the same.]
The Social Security Administration is 'the hand that feeds'; it is also an easy target. This system, which provides payments for welfare, social security, and veterans, has no protection, no auditing, and no hope of restoration once removed.
The Internal Revenue Service quite recently made it possible to tamper with them. Introduction of 'electronic filing' of income tax has created the opportunity to flood their system with bad information (taking names at random from the telephone rolls, accessing the credit reporting system to gather essential information such as their taxpayer identification number and financial status, and then creating a 'bogus' tax return which would be filed).
The IRS system is one of the few 'hard' systems (meaning it has some of the better electronic protection), but it is targetable in two waysan EMP generator, generating a damaging static charge of 50K volts to any conducting object, can be used to eliminate the system, or the system can be attacked in the same subtle fashion as the most 'secure' electronic systems in Western Civilization (see the section on 'isolated' systems in the Government section).
It could add considerably more terror and panic to incapacitate the conventional means of mass communication, cable and commercial or 'network' television. These system are completely dependent upon electronic switching, microwave, and satellite pathways for their deliveries, and security of such is poor, most attention having been focused at prevention of theft-of-signal.
2.8 Government & DoD/Intel
Oddly enough (for one would assume that this sector would be secure), a crippling amount of damage can be done to the government sector. The group responsible for protecting the West against just this sort of an attack, the National Security Agency, has been sorely remiss in their duty (just one small exampleThe brain trust in charge of technology security for the U.S. let their classified procurement records through most of the 80s be released in a database (Maryland Procurement Office); worse yet, they didn't know it until they were told by an outsider. Knowing what they were buying provided a good degree of intelligence to the opposition; it also opens a future hole by exposing the type of technology to target to do them damage.).
Granted, making any technology secure is difficult; just as with a locked room, there are plenty of ways to pick a lock, force a door, steal a key, make the owner let you in, or just go through a window. Add to this that most of the people who are supposed to be protecting things are completely incapable of doing so--like virgins talking about sex, they are beyond their competence. There is, however, a sincere amount of deliberate negligence. Their rationale has been that protecting U.S. technology would be dangerous, as it would be exported or stolen, and then the U.S. would be in a position of being unable to break into their own systems, then in the hands of enemies. The implication, of course, is that NSA takes its job of being able to penetrate target systems as more important than protecting the West from a similar danger. Sheer folly.
NSA systems, such as the old PLATFORM network and their in-house system Dockmaster are difficult, but not unassailable targets. The scientists at NSA are counting on their 'isolated' systems to be impervious to this sort of tampering; it is unfortunate (for them) that there is no such thing as an isolated system. Even if the system is behind a giant 'blast door,' with supposedly no contact to the outside world, with the software written in DoD approved ADA, the system is still 'touchable.' The system has an operating system, other applications, the ADA programming tools and compilers, and a host of other mechanisms exist for getting something 'in' to the system, and that's all it takes. Even if the Defense Department were to institute prophylactic measures to attempt to keep such things from happening, Precipice style attacks can target through contractors and other suppliers, making all systems available for informational warfare attacks.
Precipice poses as serious a threat to the military strength of the NATO forces. It was the acknowledged technical superiority which enabled a quick and painless (for the West) end to the Gulf Conflict. Such an 'edge' can be removed quite simply, evening up things considerably (actually, more than evening up--today's typical NATO soldier is mostly helpless without his technology to back him up). Even the tactical nuclear devices will become unusable, as the 'PAL' codes that activate them are not kept on-site in a 'hard' (printed, for example) format that is readily usable; without such a code, which are individually unique per device, things like atomic mortar rounds equate with throwing rocks.
NATO tools of policy, such as Japan, the U.S. mechanism of choice for Asia, are also at risk. Japan is currently updating and relocating its antiquated equivalent of the 'Pentagon.' Analysis of the proposed new installation leaves Japan in a more vulnerable position that it is currently (which is pitiful; CIA has volubly and accurately complained that Japan 'leaks like a sieve' and has rightly refused to share crucial intelligence for just that reason).
Groups in the intelligence community will be hit even harder. As intel moved from HumInt to SigInt, it became more and more susceptible to 'spoofing' (tampering with the signal) or outright destruction of the means of gathering and analyzing the endless amounts of data generated by such systems. For instance, the CIA uses NeXT workstations, notoriously easy targets, for image analysis; the billions of dollars of satellite surveillance gear circling the globe becomes worthless if the systems aren't there to make sense of it (not to mention the risk to systems such as the ARGUS ring). Precipice style informational warfare attacks make an easy target of all C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence).
Law enforcement organizations are a mixed bag of security problems. Police, the Secret Service, and the Justice Department could all suffer greatly from major attacks; introduction of systems such as the Federal Crime Information Center, with fingerprint tracking, etc., if they pass the test of the ACLU, won't pass any security test. These groups have already been subject to a considerable amount of scrutiny by the 'underground' and are already thoroughly penetrated; for example, the Drug Enforcement Administration has been penetrated through their primary contractor, leaking names of informants (now deceased) and details of their system. The only group that has a mixed blessing is the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which still relies on pre-microchip technology and techniques for most of their work, lending them some immunity.
Attacking the business community of the West is trivial compared with other targets. A simple tactic of hitting with maximum stealth and aiming for maximum damage with 'military grade' worm, virus, and penetration attacks will overwhelm any resistance they can offer. Some small protection against electronic attack has been implemented in the business community, yet it has a set of fatal flaws; such protection systems look for 'known' signatures of attack mechanisms, but the new and novel pass right through. Primary targets will be the mainframes, microcomputers, and networks that businesses in the West rely upon for everything from simple word processing, to decision support or factory automation.
2.10 Exploitable holes
Precipice style attacks can take advantage of the fallout from Western power politics and backstabbing. Imagine NATO paranoia prior, during, and subsequent to the Gulf Conflict has made Western leaders nervous about providing advanced weapons systems that may be turned against NATO forces by their current users, or, as was the worry with Saddam Hussein approaching Saudi Arabia, by someone acquiring them.
Because of this, the U.S. may have wanted the ability to deactivate or destroy, via a coded signal, any weapons system that is of American manufacture via 'software.' Such systems are also deliberately vulnerable to electronic penetration attacks (as per NSA doctrine). In an odd twist of irony, Japan may have also likely implemented into their technology of military use the ability to destroy or deactivate the system at the hardware level; this is part of a veiled but very real and operational "Japan That Can Say 'No'" strategy that has shown up on occasion throughout our analyses. Knowledge of this weakness (and many other valid reasons) has caused the NSA to initiate its own chip manufacturing efforts for critical systems; this effort was out-of-date and outclassed from its inception.
3.0 Non-conventional warfare
We are witness to a new 'theatre' of operations opening up, where the antagonists can be anywhere, at any time, with immense leverage of their resources all out of proportion to the damage they can cause. The training grounds, a 'virtual' place, are not something that can be tracked by satellites, but more live within them; the entry cost to get in the game is so small as to be negligible, something that can be paid for as a by-product of 'riding the grid.' The profile of those capable of informational attacks is a combination of 'Carlos' and 'Robin Hood.' Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.
The crowning glory of non-conventional warfare are attacks carried out using nuclear devices, chemicals, biological weapons, and, as proposed herein, informational attacks. All of these mechanisms are known for their large, rather indiscriminate capabilities of destruction; informational attacks are additionally 'tactical' and can be quite surgical.
As has been outlined previously, this is the primary method for a small group to leverage themselves into a considerable force; what one doesn't have the numbers to make short work of, one needs to stretch out over time. Technology provides the necessary ability to introduce systems over time and in such numbers as to create quite a stir at the previously appointed time, yet this can be done by a few or lone antagonist, and from anywhere they can hook into the 'grid'.
All that is required is the use of sophisticated electronic penetration techniques, computer worms and viruses, and the exploitation of existing 'targets of opportunity.' Such knowledge does not, as yet, grow on trees; there are perhaps a few handfuls of individuals with the necessary skills and desire to carry out a large-scale program such as Precipice.
The viruses and worms needed to execute the project are not terribly complex; indeed, this is a benefit, as such 'weapons' have only been discovered in the past through malfunction or when they had activated, post damage, usually in isolated circumstances--yet a full scale attack such as Precipice would target widely, and leave no room for response. Each specific target could be covered by redundant attacks, with one attack being a stealthy, bare-bones style intrusion (ideally a custom built attack aimed at each specific system, rather than a 'shotgun' approach), with the other being new, previously unheard of technology such as
- Morphing viruses, which constantly change their programming code and configuration to avoid a stable pattern that can be looked for;
- Binary attacks/data viruses, which reside, Trojan Horse fashion in legitimate systems as only a few necessary bytes, only activating upon linkage with the remainder of the system which was disguised as unexecutable (and hence, a blind spot for 'hunter-killer' prophylactic systems) data files, or a section 'hidden' in 'unusable' sections of the system; such systems also pass through 'firewall' style protection;
- Polymorphic worms, which are slightly cumbersome, but can reconfigure themselves to cross machine type boundaries, thus avoiding a 'yeast growth law' limitation to the spread;
- 'Factory' worms, that take advantage of networks hanging off of networks, by breaking into the 'parent' system, taking advantage of the newly available trusting resources and accesses, then propagating and seeding throughout the 'child' network(s), mutating, and then launching back through the gateway into the larger network;
- Cryptographic worms, which infiltrate into the storage mechanism of the system, and encipher with a public-key system all the stored data, and decipher the retrieved data for a period of time, until one day the retrieval half of the pair 'commits suicide' and performs a low level format on itself, thus making all data in the system non-retrievable; note that this attack is deliberately reversible by the reintroduction of the decryption half of the worm;
- Envoys, or expert penetration systems, that use knowledge-based system technology to learn from the penetration team and carry out further penetrations on its own.
The main group intended to 'combat' such infiltration, the National Security Agency, has been covering their inability to correct the problem for many years now. NSA relies upon 'secure' system metaphors such as the MULTICS model, yet these were invalidated years ago by the advance of such penetration technology (which can, in fact, use the protection mechanisms to their own advantage). Quite simply, there is little hope to prevent such intrusions.
4.0 Rationale--Who and Why
How would one benefit by such actions as the Precipice style attacks? Who would it profit? As with most things, there are varying colors and shades. Taking the two extremes and examining them is highly educational
4.1 Full Scale Attack
Once the triggering event has occurred, John Doe and Jane Roe are in sorry shape. For instance, immediately there is no phone, police access, fire control access, medical care for emergencies, alarms, power, sanitation, money, credit cards, financial markets, economy, social programs, television, government or intelligence community. There will be limited transportation (none on a large scale, no logistics, personal transport is mostly temporary as fuel runs out, leaving muscle power), and supplies (food, water, fuel). Likely there will be military with conventional weaponry, their stockpiles, and radio communications available to them.
What happens next is pure supposition, but some things are clear--there will be immediate chaos. Control will be established after a certain period of time; society has a certain inertia holding it together. In the interim, the amount of damage that will be done will total into the trillions; this does not take into account the long term economic effects which will be uncorrectable.
The West will be suffering near-fatal internal strife, and will be quite unable to cope with anyone else's problems at the time. Even afterwards, if control is successfully reestablished, the countries of the West will be, at best, Second World parties, and unable to exert any real influence beyond their own borders for a time.
In what context is it desirable to destroy Western Civilization, primarily those countries that comprise what is known as NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)? When the executing parties have something to gain--possibly their independence from NATO dominance, influence, and manipulation.
Historically, a 'breaking away' of this sort has only been possible when the dominating country was heavily involved elsewhere, financially strapped, or incapacitated. Even the American Revolution (1776 A.D.) was only possible in the context of Great Britain being quite occupied elsewhere. It is also humorous to note the symbolic 'first act' of that rebellion was economic, the dumping of commodities at the 'Boston Tea Party.'
The rules of rebellion are different than they were for the American conflict; the best model for running a modern effort towards self determination was the World War I effort of T.E. Lawrence and his compatriots. Such lessons come mostly in the form of "don't"s
- Don't attack militarily (it only forces the game to be played by the opponents rules, rather than your own [Iraq's miscalculation in the Gulf Conflict]);
- Don't attack your opponent's strength directly but hit around the target (destroying logistics, for instance; increasing terror, or helplessness; not falling into a predictable pattern; obvious targets are commonly the best guarded, pitting your forces against your opponent's strength, a serious mistake);
- Don't lose or give up your mobility, your foe isn't going anywhere (and if they do, it means you've won, incurring a whole new set of problems);
- Don't let your opponent fight a single- or double-fronted war, always force them to maintain a hyperextended (thus overextended) front;
- Don't fight a pitched battle, even by mistake, always maintain 'hit and run' tactics that give your forces the advantage;
- Don't strike indiscriminately, or strike just to strike, be surgical in the precision with which operations are carried out;
- Don't pick simple targets; seek leverage, go for 'more bang for your buck' style targets that cause extreme damage for little effort.
Western Civilization is wide open to attacks governed by these rules--it certainly isn't going anywhere (no one is packing up New York or Tokyo and moving them), mobility and time are on the side of the attacker. In fact, the best method of making such an attack by such 'rules' is by hitting the infrastructure and economy of the NATO countries and their dependents.
A few parties have the greatest desire to see this done; for instance, the Middle East has been the battle field since WWI, and post-WWII, because of the importance of oil and the West's need to control it. The Cold War raged through the region, with the U.S. using Israel (and later Egypt) as a tool of policy and control, ignoring even the most blatant human rights violations perpetrated by the Israelis and other allies against the Palestinians and other targets. But, similar to the way the Spanish Empire ran afoul of the harmless people they drove into the seas, known as the Buccans (for the fires over which they roasted the pigs the Spanish had seeded the islands with) and later as pirates, the Arabs refused to take the situation lightly and have been fighting, rightly so, ever since. Another interested and injured party would be in Ireland; long the target of British oppression, up to and including the earliest programs of organized, State-sanctioned genocide, certain among the Irish have desired self determination for centuries. A 'bytes, not bombs' strategy could be quite appealing to guerrilla and terrorist organizations world-wide; this comes from an increased awareness of the 'feedback' loop that terrorism makes possible. While it has been desirable (from their point of view) for such groups to attempt to force a government response to restrict civil and (in some cases) human rights to foster a feeling of oppression in the general populous, it usually only increases the militarization of anti-terror forces while not appreciably inconveniencing 'the masses' and can cost popular support. A shift in focus to terror activities that are not overtly violent would take away much of the justification of government forces for heavy militarization, would cause more damage to the system than their current methods, are safer for the terrorist, and the only option of response by government forces would be 'regulation' of technology and the jeopardized industries (which is a non-viable option).
The wish to have 'Uncle Sam' and his allies out of their lives have driven many a people to wage an up-until-now fruitless war. Something like Precipice would give them a new option that would break them free. Luckily for the West, the emphasis on the part of such parties has remained 'conventional' militarily, with some focus for their intelligence (including the education of their people in the West) on nuclear power.
The Western intelligence community has been in a difficult position regarding the Middle East (Arabic and Islamic) terrorists. One of the 'rules of the game' is that mutual deterrence works, or at least it used to. The U.S. has long had the ability to track the perpetrators of terrorists acts, knows the training base locations, etc. What has held back reprisals? Other than the obvious "don't blow your source" issue, there has also been a sort of "gentleman's agreement"--the U.S. wouldn't hit them, and the U.S. itself was immune from attacks on 'home territory.' The new players aren't following the rules. What makes something like Precipice attractive to players in the Middle East is two-fold
- It strikes at the very heart of the 'Great Satan';
- They don't pay nearly as high a price as the West; other than the very top of the society, there is little intrusion of the benefits of the West, and even then, the pro-West aristocracy is hit, not the ruling elite of Islam, for example. A return to the simplicity of the 14th Century is attractive to the people.
4.2 Limited Conflict
Rather than all out 'nuclear war,' a small 'tactical' war is more likely, and more insidious. The two initial segments motivated to play this sort of game are dissident factions in the West and economically motivated concerns.
There are numerous internal elements of dissension in the West who would see this sort of an option as useful for its real or 'threat' value; the power to destroy something is the power to control it, and there are 'oh so many' ways to cause trouble. Informational warfare attacks could be racially motivated (the neo-Nazi movement is quite motivated in the technical arena), terrorist launched, started by eco-terrorists, part of a blackmail attempt, or just a casual action by hostile parties.
Money is also a great motivator; a new degree of low-level conflict could mean an economic war of sabotage by 'allies' against each other (witness the programs initiated in Israel and Germany to build a competence in Precipice style attacks), or American usage against hostile 'economic' targets (not outside the realm of possibility; view it as the next step after sanctions--"If you won't stop selling X to Y, then we'll make certain you can't make X."). The Japanese are also gaining an understanding of the techniques and strategies as a side effect of their broad-based competitive intelligence programs. Additionally, industrial spying is breeding a subculture geared for this sort of work; the electronic criminals (hackers, crackers, and cyberpunks) discovered that 'stealing' money led to their being caught (the old game of 'follow the money'--you have to pick it somehow, somewhere, some day), while stealing information was much more lucrative and virtually untraceable.
The 'Information Age' is more like the 'Wild West' than anything else--there are no 'rules' to break, so it is a 'land' of opportunity. Targets in the West are too susceptible, not just to destruction, but to disruption, spoofing, and passive spying; all systems that technology touches in the West can be considered compromised.
How to conclude? The problems are there and aren't abating; I can draw a few broadly stated conclusions
- The buzz about information warfare will begin to occur as more and more people become technology savvy; just as with the initial reports of computer viruses and worms, I expect people to slap their forehead and say "I can do that!" By any account, I'm certain they can, and will.
- The tactics of information warfare will only become more powerful as time progresses.
- Whomever makes the advance into this theatre of operations first has an enormous strategic and tactical advantage.
- An information warfare program is not detectable by the international regulatory agencies, law enforcement, or intelligence community; while not yet 'regulated,' such monitoring is a practical impossibility.
- A Precipice style attack requires little enough effort to prepare and wage that organizations interested can do so easily.
- The time is now.