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Waging Cyber War -- and Defending Against It

Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2006

Two items I came across today tell two sides of the same story: Computer network attack and defense are a growing part of 21st century warfare.

The first item adds to the mounting body of evidence that Islamists and terrorists are seeking to use computers and the Internet to wage holy war. The Jamestown Foundation's Terrorism Focus yesterday reported that Islamists, sparked by the Pope's recent comments, have set up a new Web site "to help organize an electronic jihad against websites that insult Islam and Islamic sacred figures." The Terrorism Focus story continues:

The site has been well publicized on more established jihadi websites. Jihadi forums are posting quotes from the Quran in order to encourage and convince jihadis and regular Muslims of their duty to engage in electronic jihad and to attack anti-Islamic sites in order to shut them down. Furthermore, postings from August on the Electronic Jihad site already claim that they successfully shut down the Israeli website http://www.haganah.co.il. Thus, it seems that while street protests in response to Western criticism of Islam have died down in the Islamic world, the battle is still raging on the internet.

The piece is very short, so you can read the rest for yourself.

The second item pertains to what the United States military is doing to guard against the increasing threat of cyber-attack, or what the military calls "Computer Network Operations."

Like any good bureaucracy, one thing they're doing is reorganizing, according to a story fromInsideDefense.com. Inside the Air Force's John T. Bennett reports that the Air Force plans to establish a new "Operational Command for Cyberspace":

Senior Air Force leaders plan to establish a new command for directing the service's numerous activities in cyberspace, a move intended to combat the ever-growing Internet prowess of terrorist groups like al Qaeda, according to sources and documents.

Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley have tapped the service's Air Education and Training, Air Combat and Air Force Space commands to formulate a range of options for the notional "Operational Command for Cyberspace," according to a Sept. 6 letter signed by the two leaders. Inside the Air Force obtained the letter this week.

Stay tuned for more on this issue. Over the next few months, I'll be researching an article on the military aspects of computer network defense, and may post some of my findings here.