Follow
Search
Updates
Books Worth Reading
  • Winning the Peace: An American Strategy for Post-Conflict Reconstruction (CSIS Significant Issues, No. 26) (Csis Significant Issues Series)
    Winning the Peace: An American Strategy for Post-Conflict Reconstruction (CSIS Significant Issues, No. 26) (Csis Significant Issues Series)
    by Robert C. Orr
  • Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World
    Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World
    by Ashraf Ghani, Clare Lockhart
  • The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Vintage)
    The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Vintage)
    by Rupert Smith
  • Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization
    Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization
    by John Robb
  • Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places
    Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places
    by Paul Collier
  • The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century
    State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century
    by Francis Fukuyama
  • When States Fail: Causes and Consequences
    When States Fail: Causes and Consequences
    Princeton University Press
  • Building States to Build Peace
    Building States to Build Peace
    Lynne Rienner Publishers
  • Making States Work: State Failure And The Crisis Of Governance
    Making States Work: State Failure And The Crisis Of Governance
    United Nations University Press
Tags

Entries in Global Guerillas (1)

Tuesday
Feb162010

Cyber War and the ShockWave Project

My very first post here at D3 discussed this 60 minutes piece on the ability of foreign governments or non-state actors such as terrorists, hackers or parasitical criminal syndicates to use the web to engage in systempunkt, the tactic of destroying key infrastructure or communication nodes (usually centralized to capitalize on economies of scale) in order to create larger societal disruptions. 

 

Taking off line the power plants supporting a large city, for instance, has a cascading effect that impacts downstream government and business functions creating turmoil in the provision of essential public services and the economy, not to mention destabilizing the lives of individuals and their families. 

 

Without power, the water supply available to densely populated urban areas will eventually shut off and supermarkets relying on complex internet software and just-in-time inventory delivery may soon end up empty.  Sure, such items can be trucked in, but in such quantities so as to satisfy demand?  Without street lighting at night and degraded police force capabilities, criminals are more likely to come out and wreak havoc.  The list of negative possibilities is endless and the result may be a breakdown in law and order or mass population movement outside the affected area.

 

The groundbreaking work on systempunkt (a riff off the Blitzkrieg concept of schwerpunkt) was done by theorist John Robb whose blog Global Guerillas and book Brave New War are the key texts when discussing these issues.

 

So why do I mention them?

 

Because today the Bipartisan Policy Center is conducting an exercise called Cyber ShockWave that is essentially a war game for the sort of scenario described above.  The event will convene former senior government officials playing the role of cabinet members as a massive cyber attack occurs against critical infrastructure in the United States.  

 

According to the BPC,

 

“The participants, whose mission is to advise the president and mount a response to the attack, will not know the scenario in advance. They will react to the threat in real time, as intelligence and news reports drive the simulation, shedding light on how the difficult split-second decisions must be made to respond to an unfolding and often unseen threat.”

 

To make it as realistic as possible, a production company has built a duplicate of the White House Situation Room and used professional scriptwriters to help security experts design the exercise.  CNN is filming it for broadcast later in the week and once the war game is finished participants will engage in an after action review open to questions from the media and public.  I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

 

However, my guess is that if a massive cyber attack on American infrastructure occurs, the government response will largely be ineffective.  Bureaucratic inertia, failure to plan or resource on a large scale, and good ole incompetence will make the official action more or less meaningless for everyone but the very few (especially in the short-term).  What will matter are how individuals prepare themselves and their attitude in adjusting to the new reality until systems come back online.  Yet there is one thing the government and individuals can do to minimize the impact of such widespread disruptions, and it isn’t building a more complex firewall. 

 

In short, it’s about building resilient communities able to weather the shocks that will likely in occur in the new world we’re living in.  One model is transition towns.

 

More on community resiliency is available here.