John Robb: Iran, Cyberwar, and the Perils of Lazy (or Corrupt) Thinking

Corruption, Government, Idiocy, Ineptitude, IO Deeds of War, IO Impotency, Military
John Robb
John Robb

Iran, Cyberwar, and the Perils of Lazy Thinking

For those of you that don’t know, the US doesn’t spend much time/energy/effort on military strategy and theory.  They do spend money on political scientists and engineers to provide a substitute.  Regardless, this deficit means the US continually falls victim to strategic errors due to stale military theory.

The big one we recently fell victim to?

The US unilaterally launched an arms race in autonomous weapons (for more on this read my article;  Pandora Smiled).

NOTE:  In fact, in all of the work I’ve done for the national security system (CIA, NSA, DoD, JCS, DNI, etc.), I’ve never run across a true military theorist.  They don’t exist in the 2 m plus person bureaucracy, despite trillions in spending based on those theories.  Go figure?!?   It’s like building a Large Hadron Collidor without a physicist.

Well, that arms race is starting to bite us back, but not in the way our lazy national security strategists expected.  There’s a pretty good article in Vanity Fair about cyberwarfare and Iran by Michael Joseph Gross that details how.

It starts with a nice kick at the start, like Brave New War (on its fifth printing), but for cyberware:

The data on three-quarters of the machines on the main computer network of Saudi aramco had been destroyed. Hackers who identified themselves as Islamic and called themselves the Cutting Sword of Justice executed a full wipe of the hard drives of 30,000 aramco personal computers. For good measure, as a kind of calling card, the hackers lit up the screen of each machine they wiped with a single image, of an American flag on fire.

As you can see, if you like my stuff, it’s worth the click to read the entire thing.  Here’s one of the payoffs:

In the U.S., the escalating bug-and-exploit trade has created a strange relationship between government and industry. The U.S. government now spends significant amounts of time and money developing or acquiring the ability to exploit weaknesses in the products of some of America’s own leading technology companies, such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft. In other words: to sabotage American enemies, the U.S. is, in a sense, sabotaging its own companies. 

Here’s another one from a bug developer:

“You don’t have to be a nation-state to do this,” he says. “You just have to be really smart.”

BTW: the lead graphic is close to an article I did for Wired in 2007, When Bots Attack. From the Vanity Fair article:

Bots iran

It reminded me of this graphic from my Wired article that I thought you would enjoy:

When bots attack