Cyber Warfare In Georgian Conflict? Maybe

There has been a lot of press about a "cyber war" being waged between Georgia and Russia in conjunction with the real warfare that has been taking place over the past week between the two countries. Both Georgian and Russian governments are accusing each other of trying to shut down their country's websites and other IT infrastructure systems.

While it is clear that hacking of each country's IT systems has been going on, it is unclear whether it is government inspired or nationalistic hackers. It is going to take some time before the electrons clear and the question is resolved, if it can be.

More interesting, there is a story in the Wall Street Journal today that explored once again the question of whether a massive cyberattack on a country constitutes an act of war. No one seems really sure.

As noted in the story, "The Pentagon doesn't have a policy on whether a cyberattack can be an act of war, said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Eric Butterbaugh, adding, 'it's ultimately the perception of the country under attack as to whether an act of war was committed.' The Pentagon has, however, assigned its [USAF] Strategic Command to head up cyberprotection and cybercounter-attack operations.' "

As far as that second statement, Government Executive reported yesterday that the USAF has temporarily halted its plans to be cyber command central. According to the Air Force, this action was planned all along, although it took many people by surprise, since 1 October was the planned start date of Cyber Command operations.

"The Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force have considered delaying currently planned actions on Air Force Cyber Command to allow ample time for a comprehensive assessment of all AFCYBER requirements and to synchronize the AFCYBER mission with other key Air Force initiatives," an Air Force spokesperson said.

The Government Executive story says more likely the other military services (especially the Navy) felt left out, and wanted to slow the Air Force down before it could solidify its position as lead service in the cyber warfare mission.


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Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City