Austin Bay

While a digital Armageddon (a total-destruction attack toppling the entire Internet) is highly unlikely (a couple of experts I've spoken with say the entire Internet is simply too big a target), cyberspace is indeed an active battlefield.

In an interview earlier this year,'s editor, James F. Dunnigan, argued: "The objectives (in cyber war) aren't too different from other warfare. You want to hit the other guy's networks but keep your own operating." As to what an all-out cyber war involving major "cyber powers" like the U.S., China or Russia might look like? "No one really knows for sure," Dunnigan replied. "We do have some indications."

Cyber-defense experts (based on the cyber weapons that exist and ones that are theoretically possible) identify three general types of cyber conflict:

-- Limited Stealth Operations (LSO): These are cyber-war operations that primarily support espionage programs.

-- Cyber War Only (CWO): CWO could take the form of a National Denial of Service (NDOS) attack. The May 2007 attacks on Estonia might have been an experimental CWO operation.

-- Cyber War in Support of a Conventional War (CWSC): Russian cyber attacks on Georgia, while its ground and air forces were also attacking, are perhaps the best example. A CWSC can hit strategic targets (e.g., international lending and trading systems), not just the electronic weapons and communications of the combat forces.

Imperial Rome had many enemies -- and so does the Internet.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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