"The world isn't run by weapons any more, or energy or money, but by little ones and zeros, little bits of data. ... It's not about who's got the most bullets, but who controls the information, what we see and hear, how we work and think. It's all about the information." Sneakers. MCA Universal, 1992
Technology of the 21st century will be used in both positive and negative ways. Unfortunately, most citizens in the industrialized nations have become dependent on technology without even acknowledging it. We operate in an electronic age. Computers, phone lines, satellites, and televisions are all forms of direct communication on which people rely daily. In fact, today it is hard to think of any national infrastructure that is not somehow dependent on modern technology, including electronic power grids, water supply systems and the financial institutions of America. Indirectly, people communicate information to others in society various cultural norms as well. For instance, how we travel, what kind of car we drive, where we shop, eat, or bank, and what type of appliances we have in our homes all communicate information. Thus, if an opposing actor could somehow obtain control or disrupt communicative technology, they would wield considerable power and influence upon those who relied on it: the technologically advanced first world nations, including the dependent citizens of the United States.
Now step back and imagine a situation in which you could not use one, many, or all of the communicative things that are based on technology for a day, week, month or even year. Disturbingly, the future holds that information terrorism, a unique combination of conventional terrorism and information warfare, will take aim on the communicative functions within the U.S. Such communicative functions include the public telephone network, satellites that circumscribe the world, cable and television, the postal service, and also transportation systems. The results of such a situation or attack by information terrorists, on both the infrastructure and the people who rely on the infrastructure to communicate, would have severe implications for America. As such, this paper will answer the question of what impact would an information terrorist attack have on the communicative aspects of the United States? First, to understand what realistic threats exist to the United States I will describe and explain information warfare and information terrorism. Second, I will describe what the communicative aspects of the U.S. are, such as various information infrastructures, and explain what importance communication in these manners plays within society. Third, I will predict what communicative aspects can be disrupted by either an information terrorist or information warfare attack and how they would be attacked. To supplement this discussion, I will examine a few case study examples of attacks on the critical infrastructures of energy and telecommunications to see what the results of an information terrorist attack would be on society. Finally, I will ask what will happen if the U.S. tries to protect these communicative aspects from attack, with encryption for example, how we balance the need for National Security with the First Amendment and privacy concerns?
Defining Information Terrorism and Information Warfare
An excellent definition of information warfare (IW) is found on the Institute for the Advanced Study of Information Warfare's (IASIW) homepage. The IASIW defines information warfare as "the offensive and defensive use of information and information systems to exploit, corrupt, or destroy an adversary's information and information systems, while protecting ones own" (IASIW www.psycom.net/iwar.1.html, 1998). Still, one may not be able to understand what IW "is." The understanding that information superiority is the key to dominating the battlefield is not new. What makes IW new is that technology has and will allow IW to occur at unprecedented levels in the future. The increasing speed in flow and processing of information and the virtual dependence on information and information systems by first world countries essentially make the use of IW inevitable. Where or how an attack will occur, who is behind the attack, and why there is an attack become the more interesting questions to be answered in the future.
Understanding the definition by the IASIW is necessary to understand IW as a theory, but to understand a few of the practical applications of IW a few classifications are also necessary. These classifications provide reference points of how information warriors alone could act. According to Winn Schwartau, the noted author of Information Warfare: Cyberterrorism - Protecting Your Personal Security in the Electronic Age, IW can occur at three levels. Class I Personal IW is essentially an attack or defense at the individual level. In the future, mere "existence" will become more and more digitally stored and built upon through thousands of computer databases. The most prevalent of these controlling databases that communicate information in the U.S. are either in the Department of Transportation or the Social Security Administration. Thus, with a Class I information attack, virtually any type of profile of the "real individual" can be created, manipulated, or erased by the "digital individual." Without ever knowing it, a person's life could instantly be thrown into chaos. If someone suffers a Class I attack they should be prepared to prove their real existence, too. Due to the human tendency to place blame on human error and uphold the infallibility of computers in the information world, people are guilty until proven innocent (Schwartau 1996). This is what makes Class I IW attacks so appealing to a wide variety of actors, including information terrorists.
Class II Corporate IW is similar to that of a Class I attack. Instead of a personal piece of information, corporations based upon the information or information systems can be attacked. If a multi-million dollar revolutionary car engine is designed by GM, the turmoil that would occur if the information was stolen to build such an engine before it was patented would be obvious. Thus, part of Class II IW is industrial espionage. A Class II attack may also involve the systems that corporations rely on daily. The stock market probably would not operate well without the use of computers and systems that can handle real-time financial transactions. The same sort of analogy would apply to any other attack on a corporation, bureaucracy, or other "business-oriented" structure or action. Suppose that Wal-Mart's bar-coding machine subtracts a few digits from each price, or Pioneer accidentally ships 1,000 tons of Ammonium-Sulfate to an unknown warehouse instead of to a farm supply vender, or that the phone company offsets every phone number by one? The resulting confusion and agitation would be devastating.
Class III Global IW is much larger in scope than the previous two classes of IW. The targets are the political spheres of influence: governments, global economic forces, entire industries, or even entire countries. It would be equivalent to an electronic world war against a single actor. Hence, Class III IW requires extensive financial resources, sufficient motivation, the ability to organize large numbers of people and patience. For instance, a systematic attack to decrease global confidence in the U.S. dollar by attacking various financial exchanges around the world would be a form of Class III IW, as would a systematic plan by a terrorist using IW to convey their cause's political goals.(1)
After understanding both the theoretical and practical typologies of IW, IW begins to develop a personality with the IASIW definition in place. IW becomes both offensive and defensive. IW becomes a method to attack and gain control of information, and whatever, or whoever is dependent on the information. IW can also be any attack against an information function regardless of tactics employed. For example, just as physically dropping a bomb on a communications relay is an information attack, so is inserting a virus that would eat away at the relay's software. Unfortunately, the entire IW field is still in it's infancy, and trying to apply IW alone with any substantive usage in determining how IW will disrupt communicative aspects within the U.S. is very hard to do.
The downside to the dilemma of the infancy in IW is information terrorism, or the use of IW to achieve the end goals of conventional terrorism. Conventional terrorism is defined by "a deliberate attempt to create terror through a symbolic act involving the use or threat of abnormal lethal force for the purpose of influencing a target group or individual" (Hanle 1989, 104). Essentially, conventional terrorists use IW tactics to target information and information systems that may cause or have an effect that creates terror. Since the use of IW is inevitably changes the nature of conventional terrorism, the term information terrorism is more appropriate when examining attacks on information or information system to achieve a sense of terror on a populous.(2) The problem with information terrorism, is that not only does it cause disruption if not the destruction of information and information systems, but when information terrorists implement Class I, II, or III IW attacks, the attacks are intentionally aimed at causing detrimental, if not fatal results, to people as well. Thus, information terrorism incorporates the motives of conventional terrorists, to cause fear or terror for the purpose of influencing a particular target, while using the technological advantages and sophistication that IW tactics and operations provide. While many of these systems have proven beneficial to society in general by increasing the flow of information and communication, as citizens we have become overly dependent on them. This is what makes information terrorism a pragmatic and problematic outcome in the future.
The Importance of Communication in the U.S.
Citizens within the United States are highly dependent on information and information systems to provide and allow for a free flow of communication. To understand the importance of modern communication and the dissemination of information, it is important to provide a frame of reference by examining both past and present communication methods. First, as history has shown, information has continually taken new forms. As Harold Innis claimed, "the means of communication set basic parameters to the functioning of any society. In oral societies, [for instance], people were governed by the knowledge vested in the community and specifically preserved by certain speakers...by means of epic poems" (Lorimer 1994, 4). As time passed, oral language was complimented with written language. As Greece was to an oral society, Rome was to a literate society (Lorimer 1996, 6). Those who were at the upper echelons of society became skilled both in speaking and in writing, while those at the common or mass level of society, were incapable of the same level of communication. Eventually, Gutenberg's printing press and the spread of literacy beyond Latin changed this pre-industrial level of communication and information. After the bible, penny presses and newspapers spread throughout early American countrysides through advances made during the Civil War (De Fleur 1982, 36). A mass medium was born only to develop an electronic society. As more mass mediums of communication were invented, communication and information were spread throughout America. The industries that controlled the flow of communication and information included technologies such
as photography and telegraphy (1830s), rotary power printing (1840s), the typewriter (1860s), transatlantic cable (1866), telephone (1876), motion pictures (1894), wireless telegraphy (1895), magnetic tape recording (1899), radio (1906), [broadcasting and television (1923) and the computer] (Lorimer 1994, 137-38).
Additionally, besides direct forms of mass communication, it is easy to understand the importance of the creation of the U.S. Postal Service from the Pony Express to spread written communication around the U.S. Similarly, one should not underestimate the value of the evolution of the transportation infrastructure in the spread of information and communication. This evolution began by spreading a message by foot, and continued with methods using horses, boats, the railroad, and finally to the car and plane.
Currently, the flow of information has evolved into networks and entire infrastructures. As identified by the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, there are certain infrastructures "so vital that their incapacity or destruction would have a debilitating impact on our defense and economic security" (PCCIP 1997, 3). These infrastructures include transportation, oil and gas production and storage, water supply, emergency services, government services, banking and finance, electrical power and telecommunications (PCCIP 1997, 3-4). Depending on the perspective taken, each of these infrastructures have various communicative functions. Banking and finance, for instance, are important to the communication scholar because so many Americans equate their social status to the wealth they have or the possessions they can have. Thus, if the financial industry were to disrupt the flow of money, people would essentially lose that part of them to communicate information to society. However, banking and finance, water supply and oil and gas infrastructures clearly do not have the same mainstream or traditional communicative ability as the telecommunications or electrical power industries do. With no energy there is no television, radio, ability to print newspapers, recorded information, movies or computer; with a disruption in telecommunications there is no phone, modem or on-line capabilities; with a disruption in emergency services or transportation, there may or may not be access to a working phone, but even if there is there is no way for anyone to respond to the needs of a caller to 911. Without these directly communicative infrastructures, none of the others mentioned work anyway.
To understand the importance that these communicative functions or infrastructures play within the U.S. presently, it is important to examine the overall importance of communication. "The assessment of the nature and influence of mass communication focuses on three critical questions: 1) What is the impact of a society on its mass media? 2) How does mass communication take place? 3) What does exposure to mass communication do to people?" (De Fleur 1982, 13). Beside the impact that mass communication has had on society, interactive forms of communication have also played an important role in our society. In essence, each of these questions contribute to answering what impact an information terrorist attack would have on the communicative aspects within the U.S. Thus, each of these can be addressed by looking at theoretical paradigms between communicative aspects, society and individuals. Undoubtedly, the few theories addressed in this paper are not representative of all communication approaches, or every aspect of communication, nor could probably any single theory.
One theoretical approach is structural functionalism. This is the idea that "the organization or structure of a society provides the source of its stability. ... In his Republic, Plato posed the analogy between society and an organism, a system of related parts in dynamic equilibrium" (De Fleur 1982, 15). In essence, the way that society is organized is the structure and function is the way that society maintains stability. This theory applies to understanding communication in that media has the function of providing stability to a society through the functions of communication. For instance, the telephone has helped to keep society stable as families have spread across the country; the satellite and television have helped to organize society into a visual culture, and enabling citizens generally equal access to information. Of course there are concerns with this theoretical approach. Some view it has too narrow, not providing for either change or the impact that some communication may provide disharmony to a society. However, depending on the medium the stability that is created varies. For instance, whereas the phone is to familiar stability and communicative interaction, the television is to a global communicative process. These will be important points later when I discuss the impact of an attack on a communicative process.
A second theoretical approach, the evolutionary perspective, rests on an organic analogy. This analogy essentially states that "society is both organized like and develops like a biological organism" (De Fleur 1982, 17). Some call this theoretical approach social Darwinism or the idea that only the fittest parts of society will survive or else they will be replaced by newer and better social forms. Considering that the information super-highway and the National Information Infrastructure (NII) are similar to an electronic nervous system in the information and technological age, this theory does have it's roots. The Ten Commandments (hand to rock) form of written communication was replaced by the printing press, which was again replaced by the typewriter and then again by the computer. Yet a third theory is based on a social-conflict model. This states that social conflict is a necessary part of societal development because all change is brought about by conflict (De Fleur 1982, 19). Each of these theories provide insight into the importance of communication today.
For instance, there is reason to accept that all three of these theories at least partially apply to the question of what would be the impact of an information terrorist attack on communicative functions within the U.S. The evolutionary perspective supports the evolution in the spread of communication. We no longer use the Pony Express to communicate with family and friends for good reason. The telephone is more efficient, faster and reliable. As such, the competitive nature between communicative functions that has resulted in this evolution can be explained using the social-conflict theory as well. We do not use the typewriter any longer because the market-demand changed and the computer won the competition. Nonetheless, despite laissez-faire capitalism, in America the structural functionalism is still very relevant in assessing the importance of communicative functions at any given point in time. For example, if everyone in America used a different form of communication trying to convey even simple ideas would be very difficult. If you pick up a pencil and it symbolically means war, and I pick up a pencil and it symbolically means peace, then we are in trouble. Similarly, communicative functions provide stability in the fact that they provide a common communicative tool. These tools have developed into information infrastructures. The very things that every citizen of the U.S. needs for stability and for communication. Thus, these approaches provide a theoretical guideline to understand why communication is important -- they provide stability and order to mankind by enabling the flow of information.
The second way to understand the general importance of communication is to examine it practically. In other words, one must examine certain aspects of communication to see what effect they have on American society. For instance, the phrases "in the beginning was the word," and, "it is written," both testify to the power and authority associated by "putting it in writing" (De Fleur 1982, 1). Even depending on where something is written develops a meaning. Reading a message in the New York Times would take on a different level of significance than if it were read in an alternative newspaper, or even on a bathroom stall. So too would hearing the same message on the TV news verses in the movie theater. Thus, the form that communication takes has developed different sets of norms and societal standards. Over time, mediums of communication have developed a deeply institutionalized social system. The root cause depends on the exact medium. This is the point that was mentioned earlier with the stability argument. Newspapers became institutionalized because of the financial support from advertisers. The same was true for radio and television. As they have become institutionalized, however, we have also developed a dependency on them. Defined by the PCCIP, some forms of communication are critical to the security of the United States. Security, of course, is simple another word for status quo stability.
However, mass mediums of communication are only one form of communication that play an important if not essential role to stability of the social fabric of America. Forms of communication that are interactive are also essential. These forms, to name a few, include items like the telephone, mail from the postal service, person-to-person direct conversation and electronic mail (e-mail). While the argument can be made that all forms of communication are interactive, there remains a difference between point-to-mass communication and point-to-point communication.(3) One way to separate these two forms of communication is to try and communicate a message back to the sender of a message. For instance, just because you subscribe to the New York Times does not mean that if you send them an article, even a letter to the editor, that they will publish it or even respond. This restriction on communication in both ways (sender/receiver and receiver/sender) differentiates the two forms of communication.
The role that interactive forms of communication play within society are almost hard to describe because of the proliferation of them. Although the specifics of both forms of communication will be examined in greater detail during a case study later, part of the difficulty lay in the fact that point-to-point communications, if interrupted, have an impact on an individual level that is harder to measure should it disappear. For example, losing the ability to call one's parents to let them know of a birth or even a death would be hard to measure because the immediate impact is microcosmic. However, since the ability to even have point-to-point communication depends on mass technology, should one person lose the ability to use the phone due to an IW attack its likely that so would a larger base of people as well. In other words, to best understand the impact of an information attack it is reasonable to begin to assess the impact on a macrocosmic level should any form of mass medium be disrupted. On the other hand, one phone line in the 21st century also allows for the free flow of information at increasing speeds. Damage or destroy the ability of a company to use its telephones, faxes, email or modems and they could lose millions of dollars due to lost information or the failure to transpose information immediately. The financial industry, and in fact the entire financial infrastructure, depends on the ability to partake in such interactive communication. Just beginning to fathom the wide-spread use of the public telecommunications network dictates that it is as the PCCIP indicated in Critical Foundations -- critical. The same analysis and conclusion can be reasonably true for other forms of interactive communication. Should the PTN be out of order or disconnected, other forms such as postal mail and the transportation infrastructure also become crucial. Thus, the theoretical idea that both macro and micro mediums of communication, which include both interactive and mass communicative processes, clearly has practical support that further ingrain the importance of communication in our modern society. The problem, of course, is that specifically because communication is essential to the livelihood of the U.S., communication in general becomes a more profitable target to the information terrorist.
Disruption by Information Terrorists
"Tomorrow's terrorist may be able to do more damage with a keyboard than with a bomb." (4)
Knowing the importance that communication plays in society, information terrorists may use various methods to disrupt or deny access to communicative functions. In order to examine which systems of communication can be disrupted by information terrorists, it is necessary to first examine some of the tools or tactics that information terrorists would likely use. Second, I will briefly identify a few of the potential disruptions by information terrorists.
First, IW can be used as a digital or physical tool (Devost 1997, 3).(5) For example, using electronic warfare to disrupt a telephone switching station in Nebraska would be an IW attack using a digital tool, whereas dropping a missile on the station would be considered an IW attack with a physical tool. Second, IW can be based on either a digital or physical target. While inserting a virus into the code and corrupting the information that controls the station would have been an IW attack on a digital target, the missile would have attacked and destroyed a physical IW target. These distinctions between tools and targets, and digital or physical means, help to differentiate the tactical operations used by information warriors and conventional terrorists against information or information systems. Here, pure IW uses primarily digital tools, physical tools are used primarily for conventional terrorists because these are the mainstay devices and tactics that each side has used in the past (Schwartau 1996, 23-25; Seger 1990, 53). It will also be important to keep in mind that although much of the discussion will be about the offensive uses of IW, defensive uses can be just as important.
Additionally, depending on the tactical operation of IW and the motives behind the operation, IW tactics can either be the means or the ends in and of themselves. For instance, just as electronic warfare could be used to attack a bank to make public confidence deteriorate (means), military deception could also be used to change the enemy's deployment plans themselves and for no other purpose (ends). For example, if electronic warfare is used to break into a bank and electronically transfer a million dollars into a Swiss account, it would be digital IW. If that money is then used conventionally to buy machine guns and bullets, which are then used in a coup d'état, this is really just one example of the devastating impact IW could have as a means, as a means to an end, and as an end for the conventional actor. So what types of means (e.g. IW weapons) could be used in an attack and how do they affect the nature or outcomes of terrorism? Theoretically, since the definition of IW and one's goals can encompass so much, there are virtually an endless amount of possible IW tools. There are, however, three main categories of digital tools that either break into information systems, steal or manipulate information, or both destroy information and information systems. Again, how any of these tools are used is the vital question. Once the tools and tactics of the information warrior and also the conventional terrorist have been fully described, the tools will be used to explain whether a new category of information terrorists is necessary if terrorists use IW tools and tactics.
First, hackers and crackers can employ a variety of digital IW tools to attack and penetrate information and systems.(6) While the term hacker is usually reserved for a clever software programmer, crackers are those who use their skills to break into computers and use the information gained (Freedman and Mann 1997, 57). The tools used are nearly always digital, but the programming goals differ. Some of these digital tools include Trojan horses, worms, logic bombs, trap doors, chipping, nanomachines, microbes, sniffers, and other insidious and malicious software (Haeni 1995, 15-17).
A favorite cracker program called Crack systematically determines passwords, which are often the only line of defense in the cyberworld, by using a dictionary and hybrid words or patterns (Freedman and Mann 1997, 57). In the search for valuable information, or sniffing, even early into the 1990's this was a mainstay cracker program. Trojan horses are programs that appear to be one thing yet have an ulterior programming goal. If the Year 2000 problem(7) had been designed intentionally it would have been the ultimate Trojan horse because of its global prevalence. Crackers also use a software program which is designed to wait and be activated at some indefinite point in the future, commonly called a logic-bomb. Although most logic-bombs are forms of viruses, such as the Michelangelo virus, they can also be set to provide back doors to users at a later time (Devost 1995, 21-24).
Another IW tool, chipping, can be a bit more methodical and insidious than any of the above for an attacker (Schwartau 1996, 254). Integrated circuits, memory chips and CPUs run the world's computers. All of these controlling mechanisms, however, are simply tiny computer chips programmed to achieve a goal: the RAM remembers and the CPU thinks. Similarly, since chip specialization and modification are inexpensive, and will become even more so, if one causes the chip to malfunction on cue or to act in a manner the designers did not intend, it is referred to as chipping. Chipping is "the silicon Trojan horse of microelectronics" (Schwartau 1996, 262). Program it to do 'X' and 'X' it will do without question. Should millions of these tiny chips actually be developed and distributed for airplanes, for instance, that later fail at certain altitudes, then chipping would be very a powerful IW tool.
Second, van Eck monitoring and Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) probably best meet the needs of an attacker to not only break through a system but also to steal or manipulate information. Ever since the discovery in the 1960's by the NSA in a program called TEMPEST,(8) van Eck monitoring has become the ultimate in electromagnetic eavesdropping. Since all pieces of electronic equipment emit digital signatures via electrons, van Eck monitoring can essentially capture whatever is electronically coming from them, regardless of whether a monitor is turned on or if it is in a secure, unconnected location (Schwartau 1996, 221-231). Van Eck detects and monitors low-level electronic emissions, and the best van Eck machines can actually manipulate and control the technological activities and information within remote information systems. It has been suggested that the FBI used this digital tool to catch CIA-agent-turned-Soviet-mole Aldrich Ames (IASIW 1996; Schwartau 1996, 18). PSYOPS is another way that IW can be used to manipulate information, and more specifically, manipulate those who depend on the information. What makes PSYOPS a likely tool of the information terrorist, as opposed to usage of PSYOPS in the past to air-drop gazillions of leaflets in Cuba or Iraq, is that with modern technology PSYOPS can occur in real time in the electronic media. If we watch a sporting event, for instance, the advertisements that we see on the walls are probably not the same ones that are at the sporting venue. They have been digitally erased and replaced. The same is possible elsewhere. What if, for example, a terrorist group were able to "create" a CNN live broadcast about a massive and fatal explosion on board a fictious or real airplane. The impending fear that could be created, only if in the short term, could achieve an information terrorist's purposes (Schwartau 1996, 112-115).
Finally, some of the most famous IW tools to destroy information and information systems include HERF, EMP/T, and some viruses. High energy radio frequency (HERF) guns are designed to make an information system inoperable by disrupting or destroying a target temporarily or permanently (Schwartau 1996, 275-296; Devost 1995, 17). The concept behind HERF weapons easily allows an attacker to create denial of service to a target.(9) Plus, HERF weapons are unbelievably easy to build and operate. Depending on the concentration and strength of the radio transmission, the power source, range and accuracy, a HERF gun can overload a target system so that the ones and zeros are destroyed or the people relying on them are killed. In the meantime, as chaos ensues, binary schizophrenia(10) sets in as people begin the extremely difficult task of identifying the cause of the problem, and the person who fired the gun has time to vanish. While a HERF attack is significantly different from a terrorist attack in form, the outcomes of the two could be the same. For example, if TWA 800(11) suffered a massive systems failure in flight, it would be possible that a HERF assassin was the cause, but it would be impossible to determine.
EMP or EMP/T, electromagnetic pulse transfer bombs, on the other hand, are permanently destructive in nature and thousands of times more powerful than the strongest HERF gun (Devost 1995, 18). In fact, in Desert Storm the U.S. used Tomahawk cruise missiles tipped with EMP/T devices in order to avoid and electronically destroy Iraqi radar (Campen 1992; Discovery Channel 1998). Although in 1980 a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report indicated that essentially all NII systems were susceptible to EMP, an EMP/T bomb in the United States in or over an urban or populated area within such as Wall Street, Disney World, or O'Hare International Airport, would be catastrophic in nature and end result (Waller 1995, 41).
After examining what IW tools can be used by information terrorists to create fear or terror, it is now important to examine potential communicative targets that can be disrupted in an IW or information terrorist attack. It is important to remember that while there are many potential targets that can result in the fear or terror that information terrorists are out to achieve in a target audience, these examples are not about general IW attacks that can cause or achieve the results desired by information terrorists, such as an attack on Wall Street or Disney World, but examples that specifically impact the communicative processes within the U.S. Returning again to the infrastructures that were critical according to the PCCIP, the infrastructures with strong communicative value included emergency services, government services, electrical power and telecommunications (PCCIP 1997, 3-4). Infrastructure refers to more than a collective of individual companies engaged in similar activities, but a "network of independent, mostly privately-owned, man-made systems and processes that function collaboratively and synergistically to produce and distribute a continuous flow of essential goods and services" (PCCIP Report 1997, 3).(12) Specifically, understanding the vulnerability present in the telecommunications and energy infrastructure thoroughly presents a clear picture of what would result should an information terrorist or IW attack occur.
The primary communicative function that would be attacked using the IW tools would be found in the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure. This infrastructure includes the Public Telecommunications Network (PTN), the internet, landline networks of communication such as cable and fiber-optic lines, and the millions of computers linked across the nation. The PTN in itself includes "the landline networks of the local and long distance carriers, the cellular networks, and satellite service" (PCCIP 1997, A-2). To break down the infrastructure further, satellite service is essential for numerous communicative functions, including television broadcasting.
When discussing the PTN as a likely target the belief that inevitably surfaces is that the PTN is already protected. This belief, however, in the context of an IW or information terrorist attack, is an exaggeration of the truth. The fear was even presented in the main-stream medium in the form of a 1963 movie entitled, Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. This was the fear that a nuclear explosion on a central communications center, such as Washington, D.C., would cripple the entire nation. In fact it was precisely because of this weakness in the 1960's that spawned the creation of ARPANET, the for-runner of today's internet. The packet-switching network, as it came to be called, was the antithesis of the orderly, efficient phone network. "It had no hub, no central switching station, no governing authority, and assumed that the links connecting any other [location] were unreliable" (Elmer-Dewitt 1993, 62). The packet switching network has since been adopted by the PTN. The idea is that if one line of communication is severed, then a message could still be received from the sender through another route. This is the idea of redundancy. Nonetheless, made up of millions of communication hubs, relay nodes, and switching stations, some control more valuable information than others, and the past has amply demonstrated that the PTN is vulnerable.
Booz, Allen & Hamilton, the consulting firm, has conducted a study of communications in New York and found that major financial institutions were operating without any telecommunications backup. Nor are their counterparts in Frankfurt or Paris or Tokyo or London much better off (Toffler 1993, 149-150).
There have been numerous examples of how physical and natural disasters have disrupted the PTN in a specific location. Accidental programming errors are realistic examples of what one day could happen if under an IW attack. If the Public Telecommunications Network (PTN) were to suffer a single strategic failure, or a series of failures in a campaign, the results could be devastating.
In 1992, a failed AT & T switching station in New York put both Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange out of business for an entire day, with an estimated loss of billions of dollars in trading value. The failure resulted in 4.5 million blocked domestic long-distance calls, nearly 500,000 interrupted international calls, and the loss of 80 percent of the Federal Aviation Agency's circuits (Bowman 1994, 155).
In another case, AT & T's long distance service collapsed in 1990 when "a line of incorrect code caused a cascading failure of 114 electronic switching systems. AT & T's accidental failure could alternatively have been triggered maliciously by relatively small individual actions" (PCCIP 1997, A-5). These actions could have included HERF, cracking, chipping, a virus, or an EMP/T. Numerous sources report that upwards of 95 percent of the DoD's communications travel on these public information highways (Munro 1995). Thus, these examples of how a single unprotected station or line of code that controlled critical information have suffered failure despite perceived protections. In other words, because IW essentially enables an attacker to attack a target at a microcosmic level with surgical precision, just one vulnerability in an entire system, even if it is as small as a programming code, is all that it would take for an IW attack to cause devastation.(13)
A second infrastructure that would provide a variety of important and consequential results if attacked would be the energy infrastructure. Like every infrastructure, energy incorporates a wide variety of privately-owned, man-made systems and processes which in themselves are critical, including oil and gas production and distribution. However, in trying to determine the impact of an IW attack on communication within the U.S., the key component of energy I am concerned with are the electrical systems, or the end product of energy production and distribution. Often overlooked as a medium of communication, without electricity our country would come to a grinding halt.(14) Not only would communication with the telephone, television, and satellites be seriously hindered, but transportation industries, 911 emergency services, and the items that generally hold our society in civil order would be corrupted.
Similar to the PTN, the electric system is also not entirely secure despite our perception of it. While energy shortages and outages have made the national and international news, large systemic failures have been rare. Those failures with communicative impacts would have included the 1965 northeast blackout and the 1996 and 1997 electrical power outages in the western U.S. Although these outages were allegedly caused accidentally, similar incidents could have been intentionally caused using digital means as well. As a result of conventional
terrorist attacks, the National Security Council, Congress, the Department of Energy, and the energy industry focused on the physical security of the infrastructure in the 1980's. This activity led to public hearings by Senator John Glenn of Ohio in February, 1989, and was documented in the Office of Technology Assessment report Physical Vulnerabilities of Electric Systems to Natural Disasters and Sabotage (PCCIP 1997, A-25).
This report, which is analogous to the PCCIP report, amply described the level of vulnerability present in the electrical infrastructure.
The types of equipment failure that a terrorist attack ... may cause are far more severe than those considered by utilities as extreme contingencies. The extreme contingencies planned for by utilities today are limited to failures at a single site. However, ... attack could well affect two or more major sites. The simultaneous failure of any combination of two or more large multi-unit power plants, or multi-circuit transmission corridors or substations may well lead to cascading failures. While the extent of the impact ... can be very large (Office of Technology Assessment 1990, 34).
Since this report and the ensuing modifications to the electric system, however, due to the advances in technology, such as with malicious viruses, by no means is the electrical infrastructure secure. Evidence from Critical Foundations demonstrates that digital vulnerabilities in the electric system remain gravely present. In addition, many synergistic systems have only been designed to handle a few failures at once.
The United States power system is divided into four electrical grids ... all interconnected in Nebraska. A unique aspect of the electrical grids, as with communication grids, is that most built-in computerized security is designed to anticipate no more than two disruptions concurrently. In another words, if a primary line went down, the grid would ideally shut off power to a specific section while it rerouted electricity around that problem area. If it runs into two such problems, however, the grid is designed to shut down altogether. (Bowman 1994, 125).
Such incidents caused by an information terrorist could wreck havoc into the lives of U.S. citizens for weeks and months, leaving many economic, social and political scars. Some predict that multiple attacks across the United States would be analogous to an electronic Pearl Harbor.(15) These case studies, however, are only two of many possible examples of where our dependency the communicative functions of the NII can become a debilitating threat to our national security and stability if targeted by information terrorists.(16)
The Impact on Society
The impact that an information terrorist or IW attack would have on society is based on the individual situation, including the method of attack and the specific target. However, there are strong arguments to indicate that the impact of any IW or information terrorist attack can have either positive or negative effects on both the direct and indirect recipients. The main argument to support the use of IW by terrorists which demonstrates that such an attack would have a negative effect is that it would disrupt or destroy some level of stability that people have become accustomed to. This "glass is half-empty" idea is applicable in both theory and in practice. On the other hand, the "glass is half-full" approach actually sees the impact of an IW or information terrorist attack on society as positive, such as with a rediscovery of individualism or a sense of community.
Before attempting to explain the impact that an information terrorist attack would have on society, however, some believe that the entire discourse surrounding information terrorist attacks on communicative functions is counterproductive. This belief is based on the idea that all terrorists by nature need attention and public relations in order to be effective in the communication of their own cause or reason for attack. Thus, if information terrorists destroy the ability to convey information either by destroying a part of the PTN or electric system, then how can they convey their cause to a targeted audience of influence? This is a very important question. The response to it is that it would be very unlikely that any terrorist attack could entirely cripple a nation like the U.S. However, three reasons after an attack occurs would still allow information terrorists to communicate their cause.
First, just because information terrorists knock out the power to the entire Western U.S. for a prolonged period, which in itself would be an achievement, it would be almost impossible to unilaterally destroy our entire nation's communicative functions. As such, the fear that could be created would be relayed indirectly to a target audience elsewhere. Maybe if an information terrorist group completely destroyed the electrical functions of France with a satellite-based EMP/T, a NATO ally to which the U.S. must aid, the information terrorists would be able to send a strong message to the entire world. Second, if such an incident were to occur, it would be almost foolish to say that fear and terror, which from a terrorist perspective can be ends in themselves, would not occur internally during the incident and immediate fallout, or not occur after the communicative functions had been restored. Third, information terrorists could essentially monopolize a nation's communication flow so that the only information which survives, to locate a cause of a disruption, would be from the information terrorists themselves. In other words, imagining that information terrorists could somehow destroy the ability of every television, cable, multi-medium and mass communication satellite in space, leaving one operable, which could be manipulated using PSYOPS, would achieve a monopoly over this form of communication. If every cable and television station all of a sudden turned your television into a piece of plastic filled with static, and only one station remained, who would doubt it would a morphed Dan Rather on the "CBS Evening News" explaining that the disruption and denial of service was caused by a meteor shower or that information terrorists have taken control of the White House and the President has endorsed the "cause." The "truth" or reality would undoubtedly slowly filter throughout the country but the immediate impact of such a monopoly, even if only for a short period, would generate great fear and terror. Thus, these three reasons are among many which support the use of IW by information terrorists to destroy, damage or manipulate the communicative functions or mediums of communication in the U.S.
So what would be the impact on the social order of the U.S. if certain communicative functions, such as the PTN or the electrical network, were to fail? On one hand, most would immediately conclude the fatalistic point of view--its the end of the world and we know it. This is the short term impact on society often referred to as the victim-syndrome. Essentially, in order to stir many of the hypothetical examples that I have given, an information terrorist attack would have to be quite severe. I am not talking about a group of teenage kids who decided one day to hack into America On-Line and crash it. While the impact on society clearly depends on the individual situation, it is reasonable to say that the immediate result of such an information terrorist attack would be analogous to the impact of the "surprise" attack on Pearl Harbor before the U.S. entered into WWII. Thus, there are several short term negative impacts that a general information attack would have on society.
First, almost any attack would destroy our the stability that different forms of communication have provided and that we have become accustomed to in both theory and practice. If New York City lost the PTN, in the immediate fallout after an attack (up to one month), the city would be forced to declare a state of emergency and city-wide holiday. If they lost power, a city-wide blackout would result in numerous lives lost and spoilage of food causing sickness if not death. Essentially, as described in the 1990 Office of Technology Report (OTA) on the electric system, either incident would cause disruptions in numerous sectors besides telecommunications: industrial, commercial, agriculture, residential, transportation, emergency services and public utilities (OTA June 1990). Thus, the immediate stability of our society, let alone our communicative functions, would be disrupted. Without caution, however, these other disturbances in the social order due to an attack could be confused with the specific disturbances in communicative functions.
Second, the short term loss of the telephone in terms of interpersonal, social or interactive communication has already been documented. In Benjamin Singer's Social Functions of the Telephone, although at the time (1981) 29.9 percent of the respondents indicated that the loss of the telephone would not result in any social change, I suspect that this response would drop greatly if measured today. The next common response was that the loss of the phone would result in more social isolation (Singer 1981, 16; OTA January 1990, 221). This was mainly due to the fact that the phone was reportedly used most to contact friends and family. However, the phone is not the only mode of communication that if lost would disrupt the social order of things. It is important to realize that communication and communication technologies are basic to all that an individual does (OTA January 1990, 216-229). "People use communication systems to build and maintain their 'networks' of relationships. These relationships are crucial both in satisfying specific needs, such as information seeking, and in sustaining a general sense of well-being" (OTA January 1990, 221). Thus, the loss or interference of our ability to maintain these relationships is an important impact caused by the information terrorists.
Third, the response after an attack would be similar to the reaction felt during the 1938 Mercury Theater broadcast dramatization of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. This was one of the first clear cases of mass behavior in reaction a singular mode and message of communication--fear (Smith 1995, 135; Lowery and DeFleur 1995, 45-67). Due to the dependence on mass technology, such as the television, the loss of this medium, or the influence of a monopolized manipulated medium by information terrorists, could create in the short term a massive amount of fear and terror just as H.G. Wells did. Aside from all of the non-communicative impacts of an information attack on society, such as death, the loss of mass mediums of communication forces individuals to become disconnected with the rest of the world. People would lose a point of reference. Essentially, people would be feeling what Machiavelli once said. "There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new order of things."(17) Fundamentally, everything that people are accustomed to depends in some way on a mode of communication and without this mode of communication people are shocked and stunned in the short term. They will face the victim-syndrome, asking questions like, "How could this have happened? Why me?"
On the other hand, the glass-is-half-full approach to a wide-spread or concentrated attack by information terrorists would be the more likely long-term and historical viewpoint of an information terrorist incident. This reaction is based on research done in the area of competition and war-time situations. I call it the natural disaster effect. When a tornado lands in the downtown of Nashville, Tennessee, or when U.S. citizens are persuaded by political rhetoric and images to believe that Iraq's President Sadam Hussein is a madman, as individuals we are very scared and fearful of the situation and the future. However, in these types of situations a nation of individuals rediscovers the unity and similar characteristics between one another. The commonalty of an incident essentially brings us together to support one another. This is the common and natural response to an "us verses them" interaction--solidarity (Madsen 1991).(18) When bad weather hits a town the night before, the lighting and thunder is the topic of conversation the following day at the office. When a class of college students awaits the final examination, peers often find themselves talking enthusiastically with others whom they previously did not. Thus, should any level of information terrorist attack occur on any of the communicative functions described, as a nation and community in the long term we would become stronger as a result of it.
Additionally, there is a second reason that the community would be stronger as a result of an attack. Examine almost any situation in which a new invention or medium that is set to change the world is announced, and the rhetoric surrounding the event often comes from the far sides of the spectrum. It will either be a cure-all or a curse. These reactions are often far from the actual outcome. The negative reaction to many forms of communication, however, have either been that they will strengthen the communicative processes between individuals or that they will tear, or at least disrupt, them. The analysis and summation of the impact that the telephone has on society by Dr. Derek Rutter amply demonstrates this in theory and practice. In Communicating By Telephone, Rutter compares the outcomes of various situations conducted either over the telephone or face-to-face. From a social-psychological point of view he determines that the most important feature of the telephone is that it removes social cues (Rutter 1987, 115). "The fewer the social cues, in general the greater the feeling of psychological distance and, in turn ... the more task-oriented and depersonalized the content of what people say (Rutter 1987, 115). One can reasonably conclude that in as much as the use of the telephone and other audio communications, such as the cellular phone, have increased over the past decade, so too has the perceived feeling of psychological distance. Using basic logic, I can conclude with a reasonable degree of certainty that all other things being equal, that the loss of the telephone, would force people to maintain closer face-to-face interaction. As a result, the perceived feelings of psychological distance would dissipate. The response to this would spawn some fairly obvious possible objections, such as the person who is no longer able to communicate with his or her mother on Mother's Day because of distance which may in fact increase a particular incident of psychological distance. But again, we must differentiate between short term and long term impacts on society.
The television, for instance, is often argued to have turned our society of individuals into simply sets of eyes through depersonalization. Over the past two decades studies have come out indicating that our increase, and especially that of our children, in watching the television has resulted in a lower level of productivity, more violence, racial inequalities, and the promulgation of a mass message onto an audience. If a popular television show like "Sienfeld" has a character saying, "Yadda, Yadda, Yadda," it is likely that "Yadda, Yadda, Yadda" will become part of our mass cultural and terminological usage. This is the hypodermic needle approach to mass communication.(19) The same argument can be made that just as television watching has increased, so has the negative impact of it. Believing that television as a whole has depersonalized our culture, making us a more mass and homogeneous society,(20) the conclusion would reasonably follow that the loss of television would at least halt this deterioration of our national community. However, there is more than analogies and theoretical evidence to support the conclusion I draw that indicates the loss of some communicative functions draws a community closer. This occurred during the 1965 power outage across the U.S. "One of the more sociologically interesting impacts of the 1965 outage was the fact that without access to their normal forms of entertainment, people turned to each other; nine months after the blackout, the birthrate increased from 50 to 200 percent at New York Hospitals" (Office of Technology Assessment 1990, 25). What tips the scale is that recently our technological dependence on communication has resulted in an information overload. What once enhanced our community, now detracts from it. Thus, accepting that an information terrorist attack would negatively impact our communicative functions, reasoning supports the conclusion that such an attack would allow our society to re-form bonds with one another because it would take away the information overload. Thus, as a nation we would be forced to de-massify ourselves.
A third reason that supports the argument that an information terrorist attack on the communicative functions of the U.S. could yield positive results is that if part or all of our information infrastructure were damaged or destroyed, not only would we come closer together as a community of people, but we would have the unique opportunity to work from a blank slate. Maybe if we could start over we could avoid some of the problems we have made in the past. For example, if New York City were hit by an EMP/T in the long run television cables and phone lines could be updated and rerouted more efficiently with fiber-optic lines. Weaknesses in these infrastructures could be fixed and holes would be plugged. Currently, the costs to do this much needed updating in almost every communication infrastructure are prohibitive in terms of manpower needed, time, inconvenience and money. Similar to the national reaction in the years following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when housewives went to work in steel factories and the war effort began, so too would the likely reaction be to a threat from information terrorists who are so powerful as to take away this necessity of daily life in our homeland.
In summary, the short term impact on society would be much more than an inconvenience in the loss of ability to communicate through one medium with others. Depending on the attack, if multiple mediums of communication are destroyed, the short term immediate impact would be devastating and even catastrophic in nature. However, such an attack on our nation's information and communication infrastructures in the long term is not all detrimental and negative. As a society we could regroup with a stronger togetherness similar to the feelings of community felt after WWII. The old could be replaced by the new. Depending on the ensuing threat from information terrorism after a major attack, the U.S. may well enter into a Cold War of sorts in re-securing our infrastructures but long term impacts such as this begin to lose track of the direct impact on the communicative functions. In essence, regardless of which theory of communication is applied, an attack will add to our stability, allow us to evolve, and force us through brutal competition to become very secure.
A point that is important to address that might be lost in the discourse of the impact on society is what differentiates an impact due to an intentional cause verses an impact due to a natural cause. In other words, regardless of the cause, if the PTN fails in a major metropolitan area the impact of this communication failure will have both short term negative impacts and a longer run positive impact. However, is the impact different if people know that the cause of the failure is due to a tornado, technical error or terrorist? This question also correlates with the entire motive of threat discourses. After all, if the impact is the same regardless of the cause then why discuss the threat at all? Just fix the problem. The answer to this relatively simple questions is not easy.
To understand how the impact is different it is necessary to return again to the issue of the group in a conflict situation. The work by Robert Bigelow and Douglas Madsen adequately describe the power of the group (Madsen 1991, 16-40). In essence, if a tornado knocks out the electricity in a town, people will naturally bond with one another. However, once the electricity is restored, the bond slowly deteriorates. Thus, when the opposition (the tornado) disappears and the impact wears off, so too does the bond. However, if people know that the cause was man made and intentional, then the impact of the attack, even after electricity is restored, will force the bond to remain stronger for a longer period of time. It is a difference between having a reference group of opposition that disappears and one that does not. Thus, the "us" remains stronger for a longer period of time because the "them" also present even after the immediate impact of an attack is restored. If ships and lives at Pearl Harbor were lost in a monsoon the impact on society would not have caused us to enter into WWII, and if the Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed in freak natural disasters the fear of the bomb and more importantly who had the bomb (the Russians) and that impact would be different (the Cold War). What this means is that depending on the severity of an information terrorist attack and the impact that it has on not only communicative functions, but also directly and indirectly on other information infrastructures, the impact on society is different. As such, people who discuss information terrorism as a threat are not necessarily counterproductive. This is because knowing that the threat is man made enables us to form proper policies in the specific area of information terrorism instead of reactive policies in terms of emergency management following a natural disaster. In other words, while some will always discuss it as a threat in order to sell their services to the general public, knowing that the threat is man made will enable society to strengthen our defenses because the threat is a real one with an impact that is different from a natural threat. The us-them dichotomy is stronger for longer. Whether this impact is good or bad (such as a possible information cold war), however, is a normative question that reaches further than this paper is meant to address.
"This is a very important subject ... which we don't really have a crisp answer to.
Understanding that we have a vulnerability, and knowing what to do about it ... are two different things." -- John Deutsch, former CIA Director (21)
Modern-day society in the U.S. depends on communication and information. For better or worse, however, the information infrastructures that we have become dependent on are at a greater risk to damage and destruction than ever before through the use of IW by information terrorists. Their goal is to cause fear and promote their cause by any means necessary. If this means destroying any one of the vulnerable communicative functions in the U.S., such as the PTN or the electrical or energy network, then so be it. However, before information terrorists prepare to attack these communicative functions, or any other information infrastructure, they should be put on notice that the short term and long term impacts of any such attack on society will be very similar to any other threat. Temporarily they will succeed in causing fear and disrupting the stability of our society which is dependent on the communicative functions. Nevertheless, in the long run society naturally will find a way to re-group with a strengthened solidarity which cannot be broken, and has not to the present day despite many other massive attacks on our society. Of course, all of this analysis on the impact that any information terrorist attack would have on society is wholly dependent on a specific attack and the results of this analysis may be only generally correct to serve as the guideline impacts on society. The actual impact of any attack, depending on the gravity of the situation and its combination with other attacks on social infrastructures, could be better or worse. As an optimist, I believe that the citizens of the United States are up to any challenge.
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