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Sometimes the best defense is a good offense...

The online world is growing to be an increasingly dangerous place, with multiple national governments including Britain, the U.S., and India alleging that their systems are being regularly hacked and probed by Chinese nationalists.  These incidents are the sign of a growing trend and represent the increasing sentiment among military minds that the wars of the future will be waged heavily online.

In the era of online warfare, one of the most powerful attacks are brute force attacks using botnets.  These nets control thousands, or in theory, millions of online computers, remotely coordinating them to perform attacks as simple as simple distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks as well as more sophisticated attacks.

The value of having a strong botnet is becoming readily apparent.  China already appears to have one, if U.S. intelligence is to be believed.  The U.S. is floating plans of building its own botnet to combat its enemies.  And it’s putting the idea out under the public eye to get feedback, as it prefers its actions be discovered sooner, rather than later for fear of public backlash.

Col. Charles W. Williamson III writes in the Armed Services Journal an article calling for the development of a botnet, using the American public's computers.  He wants the botnet to be placed under the U.S. Air Force's command.  The Air Force is becoming increasingly involved with online warfare, with the development of a new sub-branch of the Air Force, the Air Force Cyber Command (AFCYBER).  AFCYBER deals with a variety of online threats from rogue individuals to dangerous nationalists.

Many see the article as more of an announcement as opposed to a question.  Barring massive public feedback, it seems likely the U.S. military will pursue plans to develop a massive botnet for its offensive and defensive purposes.  Williamson raises a valid point that any fortress, digital or real-world, will eventually be penetrated by a determined invader.  He says the only viable solution is to develop and practice a considered offense.

He points out that cyber security circles agree with him on this point; most security experts realize that no method of data protection is currently foolproof.  By merely owning a credible offensive capability, Williamson believes many would-be attackers will be deterred.

How will the botnet be formed?  Williamson suggests first repurposing old military computers.  He goes on to suggest that the military should consider infecting civilian machines with trojans, making them potential zombies, should the need for the botnet's use arise.

Williamson concludes his ruminations on the botnet with an intriguing question.  If another country's civilian infrastructure is attacking our government or civilian infrastructure online, how can the U.S. delicately launch an attack against the attacking infrastructure?

Writes Williamson, "The biggest challenge will be political.  How does the US explain to its best friends that we had to shut down their computers? The best remedy for this is prevention. The US and its allies need to engage in a robust joint endeavor to improve net defense and intelligence to minimize this risk."

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By LyCannon on 5/13/2008 11:24:14 AM , Rating: 5
He goes on to suggest that the military should consider infecting civilian machines with trojans, making them potential zombies, should the need for the botnet's use arise.

Am I the only one who see's a problem with this???

By DCstewieG on 5/13/2008 11:31:33 AM , Rating: 5
I totally agree. Why would it need to be a trojan anyway? Make it freely accessible and I'm sure plenty of people would run it. Maybe take a few bucks off their income tax. And then, instead of criticizing someone who doesn't wear a flag pin on their lapel, you blast them for not participating in the botnet! Unpatriotic bastards!!

Preferably this thing would be open source but I would seriously doubt that.

By FITCamaro on 5/13/2008 12:35:00 PM , Rating: 1
Hell I'd settle for getting to choose where my tax money goes. Military, NASA, education, and roads. That'd be about it. At least I get something out of those things(of course the public education system is a joke). F*** welfare, medicare, medicaid, social security, foreign aid, etc.

By mvpx02 on 5/13/2008 2:23:47 PM , Rating: 2
but but but if we don't work and pay taxes for those things, the people who rely on them might have to work themselves! Oh the humanity!

} ;end sarcasm

It would be nice if we could choose what we didn't wanna pay for, especially with all this talk of socialized healthcare

By HeavyB on 5/13/2008 3:08:20 PM , Rating: 3
Yea, I'd like to make sure my tax dollars don't go to those lazy ass government contractors that do nothing but pay for lobbyists and collect their fat government subsidized industrial welfare checks without ever delivering on their contractual promises.

By Mr Perfect on 5/13/2008 1:10:43 PM , Rating: 4
No, you're not. Voluntary participation is one thing, but infecting citizens' computers without their permission is outrageous.

Could you imagine the havoc this would cause in the business world? One day every thing's humming along fine, the next your company's whole IT infrastructure is crawling because it's been assimilated into the botnet, Borg style.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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