Cyber-weapons: for US Defense are weapons of mass destruction?

(To Alessandro Rugolo)
26/12/18

According to the well-informed Mark Pomerlau, the US DoD wants to explore the relationships between cyber and weapons of mass destruction.
In an article published a few days ago on fifthdomain.com, the cyber online magazine of Sightline Media Group (the same one that owns C4ISRNET, Defense News and Federal Time) entitled "Are cyber weapons similar to WMDs1? DoD wants to know ", we are talking about a" Call for Paper ", directed to the world of research, issued by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, an Air Force institute that deals with national security studies.

That the fifth dimension, the cyberspacehas reached a high level of importance is known to all, but with the comparison to weapons of mass destruction it takes on another aspect. Naturally, it will be necessary to wait for the results of the study to see what the researchers think of it, but the fact itself of studying its relationships shows the level of attention achieved in the sector from what was once considered a "game for kids".

Both father and son worked in the call for papers it is stated that "cyber capabilities can be considered on a par with WMDs because they can damage or destroy critical infrastructures, such as electrical installations, transport networks, compromise large amounts of data (in the health or banking field), undermine trust in systems such as GPS and in general can be used for disinformation campaigns through social media ".

Until now in the list of weapons of mass destruction there are no non-kinetic weapons but it seems that things are destined to change.
It seems that the request to deepen the relationship between cyber and WMDs arises from the difficulties encountered in carrying out strategic risk analysis, for which the model used is based on the nuclear weapon. The model does not seem to be valid, at least according to part of the analysts, and this would result in significant evaluation errors. In fact, in the cfp we specifically ask to identify how hypothetical adversaries could use cyber for:

- improve the effectiveness of WMDs;

- degrade the defenses from the WMDs of the US and allies;

- reduce the level of US deterrence strategies in favor of their own;

- as a substitute for traditional WMDs.

In conclusion, some brief considerations: it is clear that the cyber dimension becomes increasingly important, mainly because it is at the base of the interconnected world that was created in the last century. The interdependencies already existing in every field are at the base of the improvements and growth we witness daily, but at the same time they are a source of concern and an increase in the level of risk to which our society is exposed.

In Italy there are those who still believe that an IT program, unlikely to be considered a weapon and this lack of culture means that the software is produced without any control, only discovering later the enormous damage done to society.

How, for example, should an information technology tool be considered that could erase or, worse, change all data relating to the blood group of people from a national database if not a WMD?

As already mentioned above we are in a complex world that needs attention and resources, in which only the state (or in our case the European Union) can make the difference.
So, to make an active contribution to the discussion, convinced that even in Italy there are capable people in the cyber field, why not use the call for papers published to collect ideas? We will then give the right emphasis to the studies done.

To close, one thing is certain, while we are talking to others, friends or enemies who are, launch the challenge to the military conquest of space!

1 Weapons of Mass Destruction, Weapons of Mass Destruction

To learn more:
- https://www.fifthdomain.com/dod/2018/12/20/are-cyber-weapons-similar-to-...
- https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=7eeed6607b3ac8ebe7c...