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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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RE: I'm all for it
By FITCamaro on 5/13/2008 12:31:39 PM , Rating: 3
All jokes aside, I'm for it. Fight China botnet with botnet. Of course we can also just shut off their internet connection entirely considering we own it.

RE: I'm all for it
By HighWing on 5/13/2008 2:53:09 PM , Rating: 3
Of course we can also just shut off their internet connection entirely considering we own it.

That is the one thing I keep thinking about every time I hear about this. Now maybe not shutoff the entire internet, but when there is an attack coming, or your machine IS being attacked, why don't they ever just pull the net plug? I mean seriously, I could understand not wanting to unplug a server from the net because it would affect other legitimate users. However, if the current attack is slowing a machine down so much that no one can use it.... then dropping it from the net would only help by stopping all incoming traffic and thus preventing it from crashing which could cause even more problems. So why is this not done more often?

RE: I'm all for it
By therealnickdanger on 5/13/2008 3:32:24 PM , Rating: 2

You'd think we would at least be able to throttle overseas connections if we so chose... How hard would that be to do? I ask because I really don't know what's involved.

RE: I'm all for it
By lightfoot on 5/13/2008 4:06:28 PM , Rating: 3
Because Comcast isn't China's service provider.

RE: I'm all for it
By therealnickdanger on 5/13/2008 4:15:37 PM , Rating: 2
I was gonna say it... But seriously, you would think there is some sort of "spigot" at every juntion where undersea cables cross into our country - even satellites for that matter. Seems strange to me that the infastructure wouldn't have a physical, hardware-based method of doing this.

RE: I'm all for it
By croc on 5/13/2008 8:07:46 PM , Rating: 2
Just what part of the 'internet' does the US gov't. own? Last I checked, all of the undersea cables were privately owned, often by companies in other countries. One DNS root server is on US soil, but again is managed / owned by a corporation (Verisign, I believe).

So what is in the US gov't.'s control even?

RE: I'm all for it
By FITCamaro on 5/13/2008 9:38:20 PM , Rating: 2
I didn't mean the government. I meant major Internet backbones are owned by an American company. That undoubtedly has close ties to the US government. At least close enough that the UN wanted control turned over to them.

RE: I'm all for it
By lompocus on 5/14/2008 10:36:42 PM , Rating: 1
Turning anything over to the UN is like signing an execution warrant for it. It's fucked!

Then again, we own the little piece of land the UN is on, so we could just say "Do what we want or we deport you, accidentally misplace your papers, and have to dump you in the middle of the atlantic ocean"

Why don't we do the obvious?

“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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