Is the U.S. doing all it can to prevent attacks in cyberspace? U.S. Cyber Command was created in 2009 as a part of the U.S. military, but is it neglecting offensive capability development to ensure an overly robust defense?
In a recent article for TheHill.com, Retired Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege provided his opinions of how the U.S. Cyber Command should purpose itself in the war in cyberspace. He suggests that the United States should use a blend of offensive and defensive capabilities in cyberspace along lines similar to what we employed during the Cold War with the Russians.
Back then, both countries invested in technologies to stave off attack (radar and satellites) and technologies to inflict maximum damage (nuclear war-headed, intercontinental ballistic missiles). Fortunately, both countries respected the other country’s capability to attack and defend (and the world), and avoided nuclear war. This delicate balance only existed because both countries were evenly matched. If one country would have had a distinct advantage, it certainly would have eliminated the other country’s threat.
This brings us back to a troubling point that the General Raduege provided in his article, “Deterring attackers in cyberspace.” He wrote: “Our enemies must know that America can launch counterstrikes in cyberspace that can cripple their information networks if they dare to threaten ours. Unfortunately, as Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently explained, we are currently devoting nearly 90 percent of our attention toward building better firewalls and only 10 percent on retaliatory capabilities. Gen. Cartwright said a better strategy would be the reverse.”
That one paragraph sounds pretty prophetic, and not in a good way. History is filled with examples of great defenses being defeated by innovative offensive attacks. And if entities think there will be no repercussions for their aggressions, they are more likely to strike first, regardless of the size of our defenses.
Hopefully our nation’s Cyber Command is secretly working behind the scenes to balance its offensive and defensive capabilities. That way an aggressor will be intimidated by both our spear and out shield. I think that given enough support and time to develop themselves, this branch of our military can rise to meet the growing threats to our country.