Cyber War

Reading through the articles on how to treat digital attacks vs. how we typically treat conventional attacks, I was struck by a common question that comes up in this topic, more or less: Are digital technologies that cannot directly kill people still a threat in the same way that conventional weaponry is?

Hearing about the NATO resolution is interesting, because there you have a clear case of nations treating digital attacks the way they would conventional ones. This is tricky though, because presumably there are people, nations in fact, constantly attacking one another in cyberspace. How do we distinguish between attacks in order to know when a retaliation is needed? Also, what would the retaliation be? I would presume it would also be a digital attack, commensurate with the initial attack. What if lives are lost?

I can think of a scenario in which a foreign aggressor would attack a piece of infrastructure that could lead to a death, or many. Would this necessitate an attack with conventional weaponry?

In the case of the US government, I guess I tend to always think that the NSA has a one-up on everyone else in terms of identifying threats and the initial location of attacks. This may be giving them too much credit, but the more I look into the NSA, the more it appears they have anticipated most questions dealing with security in cyberspace.

Kaplan mentioned an instance from the Cold War that I really enjoyed and thought was a telling bit of history. When the NSA listening post in Moscow, positioned atop a large building, caught fire, someone called the local head of station and asked what to do. He said “Let it burn”. This kind of incident is well-known in espionage, where an agency will opt to destroy something rather than have it fall in the wrong hands. Thinking about current technologies, in the networked world, I wonder just how advanced our tech is compared to others, or has there been a democratization of advanced technology? I have to figure that the NSA and DARPA and other agencies within agencies that try to stay one step ahead of everyone else have tech that must be advanced beyond what is conventionally available, even to specialists.



(Updated for current stories)

Wikileaks has become in my mind a rather regressive entity, given the revelations from the 2016 Presidential Election. Julian Assange was always a pretty bunk leader for me, I was never a fan. But he absolutely served a useful purpose early on in the game of revealing abuses of power by the Bush administration and by the National Security State under Obama, which ostensibly remained exactly the same.

Looking back to the earliest revelations, we see that Assange and Wikileaks demonstrated an unusual “convergence” as the “Wikileaks Lessons” article clearly demonstrates. Ron Paul and Vladimir Putin are somehow on the same page in regards to Wikileaks, and Obama, an outspoken advocate of Liberal values, is required by the National Security state to take the posturing he has. I would say catching Assange is low priority, but he still persona non grata here in the US.

Something I definitely have come to appreciate about Ed Snowden is how very unlike Julian Assange he is. His concerns are (as far as any public person can tell) completely genuine, part of an ongoing concern of his about the state of his country. He is a patriot through and through. Assange has no beliefs, at least as far as I can tell. He is an opportunist and a blowhard, a person who clings to fame and notoriety more than the principles he apparently holds.

When Snowden was choosing where to go with his information on NSA surveillance, he decided against Assange, because he correctly identified the difference between leaking documents wholesale and simply letting the public know about abuses of power. Ellsberg’s leaks had more to do with old occurrences, how we were led into the Vietnam war, not current information that could compromise agents and soldiers in the field. Those are lives, lives worth saving just like any others. Assange has a clear disregard for the consequences of his actions, opting for the “greater good” position that is, rather ironically, utilized by the very institutions he professes to be fighting. His greater good is just like any other, and is therefore a failure to see the big picture.

Encryption and State Power

The question of the FBI and Apple comes down to questions that lie at the heart of the encryption debates. To my mind, it almost seems like a non-starter as far as debating on a macro scale; that is to say, in terms of the question of whether or not the government can have access to one’s phone, the answer is a resounding: yes. They absolutely can have access to your phone if you are a threat to national security, and thus can fall in the purview of the NSA’s jurisdiction. This question, and this news moment, was about law enforcement, and that carries a host of other questions.

Law enforcement simply do not have the same set of tools and abilities that intelligence agencies have. They are bound by US laws in a way that the NSA simply isn’t, and thus the FBI must respect Apple’s right to not give over the encryption software for the iPhone. If this is really something that is needed, other parts of the government can covertly access the data on the phone, and a brute force attack could conceivably get through the passcode (at least that’s what I’ve read some places).

As to the larger question of privacy and the government? Well, it’s just one of those things: our government has access to virtually everything we do. They choose to largely just store it away and not make it active intelligence in any real way, unless we are for some reason drawing their attention. This is of course disturbing and should be fought against, but in terms of this debate about Apple vs. FBI, the question of larger surveillance seems to outweigh the smaller concerns about law enforcement, at least when zooming out to consider the whole picture.

The FBI should be bound in ways that the NSA isn’t (whether I like it or not). They are subject to higher levels of restrictions on privacy and 4th amendment violations. This is clearly an instance where they need to back down.

week 13

Again rectifying how I completely hate war zone but There is something extremely appealing to me about killer robots. the complexity of the coding, design, and interactions with humans are ideas that baffle and amuse me ingrate manner. The way a killer robot must be designed in order to complete its task without doing any more or less than intended, killing only its targets, and saving its teammates it’s truly fascinating to me. Maybe because I was raised with classic 80s movies but this idea is a thing that can constantly entertain me as a futuristic dystopia. Now encountering this idea coming to live I find myself terrified rather than amused. This is things that should stay on the pages of books or on the screen, never in an actual field. Again I show my impartiality but if you are going to fight a war, I don’t see why you would do so with robots, play a video game if you do not want to put humans in the field.

week 12

I find it ridiculous that Drones are seen as an unfair advantage in a battlefield, sure I understand the reasons why this is debatable, such as not being able to surrender or capturing the subjects, and the comparison to chemical weapons. But regardless of all this si still a war zone, If you don’t want to be killed unfairly then maybe do not get involved on a war, it is not a simple game where you can lose by cheating. Honestly this a very impartial opinion as I am truly against war but regardless of all it is hysterical to me how a drone is seen as a clear disadvantage and they are trying to ban it from the war zone.

week 11

We have all heard of the amount of mistakes done by the government when using Drones to perform target killing. It is no secret that countless amount of weddings, innocents, and even Americans have been killed during target attacks during the last few years. This doesn’t mean that the target killings have not been successful at times, as I am sure we hear more about the failures than successes. This is a tricky subject as the drones can be a blessing or a curse. the disconnect between the war zone and the person controlling the drone might be too great and won’t is able to create the same connection as a soldier in the war zone pulling the trigger. Of course this is all speculation as I am well aware of the effects of PTSD that even those who control the drones are showing signs of.

week 10

we have now moved to an age where wars are fought remotely, where we barely need feet on the ground to fight a war. This is weird, fantastic, and stupid all in one (to me) it is almost as if we are playing Age of Empires in real life. We are growing exponentially with a new set of technologies that allows os to remotely kill, monitor, and spy on enemy forces, creating a sense of security and possibly isolation between us and the battlefield. This is a blessing and a curse as we can possibly create a much destructive force than we anticipated. What I found the most astonishing are the variety of drones used on the field, and what they are cable of. but regardless we are still creating more and more every year with more features and scariest abilities.