PENTAGON CONTRACTORS DEVELOPING LETHAL CYBER WEAPONS
Under a forthcoming nearly half-billion-dollar military contract, computer code capable of killing adversaries is expected to be developed and deployed if necessary, according to contractors vying for the work and former Pentagon officials.
U.S. troops would have the power to launch logic bombs, instead of traditional explosive projectiles, which essentially would direct an enemy’s critical infrastructure to self-destruct.
Lethal cyber weapons have arrived.
As previously reported, an upcoming $460 millionU.S. Cyber Command project will outsource to industry all command mission support activities, including “cyber fires” planning, as well as “cyberspace joint munitions” assessments.
Unlike traditional espionage malware or even the Stuxnet virus that sabotaged Iranian nuclear centrifuges, cyber fires would impact human life, according to former Defense officials and a recently released Defense Department “Law of War Manual.”
The visceral response to the word “war” for anyone in uniform is that it’s ugly and people get killed, said Bill Leigher, a recently retired Navy admiral with decades of warfighting experience who now runs Raytheon’s government cyber solutions division.
“When I use ‘cyberwar,’ I’m thinking of it, in a sense of war,” he said. “So, yes, war is violence.”
Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are among the major defense firms expected to compete for the CYBERCOM contract.
Pentagon Doctrine OKs Digital Arms
Going on the offensive in cyberspace, essentially means “defeating the interaction between a processor and its software” to serve a mission, Leigher said.
“Combatant commanders choose weapons that they know will further their course of action,” he said.
If the commander needs to fly an aircraft over an occupied area, and wants to use malware or another cyber capability to help accomplish that goal, the officer must have confidence the cyberattack will work as expected.
“I trust it. I know how it’s going to be used, and I believe that it is the best option to execute and it doesn’t create more risk for the 27-year-old Air Force pilot who is flying over a defended target,” Leigher described the decision-making process.
In this case, maybe the bull’s-eye would be a maintenance facility on an airfield. By launching a cyberattack, a commander could, for example, shut down the power grid of the facility, and then “you’ve degraded the enemy’s ability to repair aircraft,” Leigher said.
Digital arms designed to kill are sanctioned under Pentagon doctrine.
There is a chapter titled “Cyber Operations” in DOD’s first-ever “Law of War Manual,” published in June. The section reflects the department’s’ growing transparency surrounding cyberwarfare, national security legal experts say. Less than three years ago, most activities beyond defensive maneuvers were classified.
The manual lays out three sample actions the Pentagon deems uses of force in cyberspace: “trigger a nuclear plant meltdown; open a dam above a populated area, causing destruction; or disable air traffic control services, resulting in airplane crashes.”