20 March 2013
NSA Thinking Outloud About Cyberspace
US AUS CAN NZ UK constitutes the five-nation Echelon global surveillance
TOP SECRET UMBRA
The Journal of Technical Health
Vol. XXIII, No.1
THINKING OUT LOUD ABOUT CYBERSPACE (U)
by William B. Black, Jr.
Director's Special Assistant for Information Warfare
(S REL AUS CAN NZ UK) On 3 March 1997, the Secretary of
Defense officially delegated to the National Security Agency the authority
to develop Computer Network Attack1 (CNA) techniques. This delegation
of authority has added a new, third dimension to NSA's "one mission" future.
That is, in the networked world of Cyberspace, CNA technology is the natural
companion of NSA's exploit and protect functions. This delegation of authority
is sure to be a catalyst for major change in NSA's basic processes and its
workforce. The end result, however, should remain information technology-derived
products, services, and experts.
(U) The articles following this introduction were written by the staff of
the Director's Special Assistant for Information Warfare. Because confusion
still surrounds the emergence and history of Information Warfare (IW), these
articles are intended to contribute to the common understanding of why
Information Operations and its concepts are important to the future of NSA.
1. DoDD 3600.1, Information Operations, dated 09 December 1996, defines
CNA as "operations to disrupt, deny, degrade or destroy information resident
in computers and computer networks, or the computers and networks themselves."
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A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE (U)
(U) After World War II, an understanding of the core competency underlying
the making and breaking of codes -- cryptology -- resulted in a national
decision to consolidate both activities in one organization: NSA. Both activities
benefited from this consolidation, and became stronger.
(S REL AUS CAN NZ UK) Since the end of the Cold War, in
an emerging networked world, an understanding of the emergence of a new core
competency -- "cyberology" -- with its close technological relationship to
cryptology has again resulted in a national decision to consolidate. Cyberology's
central activities, i.e., "exploitation," "protection," and "attack," will
be worked together, thus benefiting all of them.
SETTING THE STAGE (U)
(U) There are certain assumptions that underpin the thought processes related
to preparing for our Agency's future in cyberspace. These are premises that
are basic to the understanding, the preparations, and the acceptance of major
changes. The following presents the main assumptions.
We're On the Edge of a New Age (U)
(U) First is an acceptance that we are on the edge of a new age, called the
"Information Age." Also, that this new age is engulfing almost every aspect
of society, including the very nature of our business. The basic premise
is that the information technology advancements of the last 30 years far
exceed any evolution of technology in the Industrial Age. These advances
are so traumatic and far-reaching that they clearly represent something truly
"new." It is important to note that, historically, technological advancements
were called "revolutions" when they make progress of a single order of magnitude.
(e.g., the automobile "revolutionized" transportation because it was ten
times faster than the horse). In the case of information technology, the
contention is that the last thirty years have seen an advancement of not
one but six orders of magnitude -- 1,000,000 times! -- in information technology.
The end result has been a great deal of confusion and turmoil as human nature
attempts to force the "new" of the Information Age into the "known" of the
Industrial Age. This "new," however, does not fit; we have to change the
The Public Sees Government as the Bad Guy (U)
(U) Second, the public reaction to this new age has a direct relationship
to the National Security Agency and the way we do business. At the beginning
of the Industrial Age, the public centered in on industrialists and/or
capitalists as being "the problem." Labor unions were created and child labor
laws were enacted to curb their power. In today's Age, the public has centered
in on government as "the problem." Specifically, the focus is on the potential
abuse of the Government's applications of this new information technology
that will result in an invasion of personal privacy. For us, this is difficult
to understand. We are "the government," and we have no interest in invading
the personal privacy of U.S. citizens. Regardless, the public's concerns
are real and have an impact upon us. The Computer Security Act of 1987 is
one example of this impact, for it clearly represents a first step in limiting
any potential NSA involvement in the public sector.
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This Age Brought Its Space With It (U)
(U) Third, a major aspect of the Information Age is that it is ushering in
a totally new sphere of operations, a new environment called "cyberspace."
For many, cyberspace is an ill-defined, comic-book concept -- perhaps something
created by a science-fiction writer or a Hollywood producer. But for NSA,
in the Information Age, cyberspace is both real and virtual: while the real
portion consists of physical assets (computers, network terminals, satellites,
fiber optic cables, etc.) located on earth and in space, it is the virtual
aspect -all interconnected, all networked, all compatible and interoperable
-that is the most important. Almost every type of interaction that occurs
in the physical world will have a corollary in cyberspace.
(U) In cyberspace, complex networks on networks emerge as an organizing concept
upon which our future operations must focus. All networks are interconnected,
and routing across the various elements of the network is automatic
and not pre-determinable. Descriptors such as Defense Information Infrastructure
(DII) or National Information Infrastructure (Nil) refer to portions of users
of the Global Information Infrastructure (GIl) or better yet, the users of
cyberspace's transportation system. The future global use and dependency
on cyberspace should evolve much the way the use of the Internet has evolved
today, i.e., because it should be extremely cost effective. The more important
aspect of this inter-connectivity is the fact that, as we move into this
complex networked future, computers are in charge, and physical geography
becomes less and less important. While computers initially automated routine
and mundane tasks, today inter-networking has turned computers and systems
to networks, affording opportunities to work with greater and greater amounts
of information at any distance. In the future, advances in artificial
intelligence, and increases in understanding of cognitive processes, in general,
will move us rapidly into a situation where computers and networks work in
conjunction with each other, under broad guidance from humans, to actually
make decisions and act on our behalf. This is cyberspace's future.
The Future of Warfare is Warfare in Cyberspace -- a.k.a. Information Warfare
(U) When we look to the future of warfare in the Information Age, we ask
ourselves the question "How do you conduct warfare in cyberspace?" The answer
is Information Warfare or, in accordance with DoD's new Directive 3600.1,
Information Operations. Information warfare has been the subject of many
speeches, scholarly papers, and popular journals. Information warfare has
even made its debut in Hollywood in the film Independence Day. These many,
differing views of IW confuse "information in war," "information technology
enhancements of existing combat capabilities or weapon systems," and "warfare
in cyberspace." In our view, "information in war" has been with us throughout
history, i.e., intelligence on opposing forces was as valuable to Napoleon
as it was to MacArthur. "Information technology enhancements" emerged during
the Industrial Age with the natural evolution of weapons technology. IW for
us, however, is "warfare in cyberspace" and is an exclusive feature of the
Information Age. We believe that its biggest impact is yet to come.
(U) Another aspect of warfare that came with the Information Age is that
actual, physical combat can be viewed in living rooms of America via television.
The horrors of war cannot be hidden. As a result, in the simplest of terms,
"body bags" are no longer acceptable. There is considerable societal pressure
to find non-lethal means of accomplishing tasks that once called for conventional
(U) For the military, the Information Age presents yet another problem. With
the kind of computers, communications, and networking available in the commercial
world, how can the military justify separate systems? Commercial communications
networks are too inexpensive and too pervasive to ignore. The
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good news for the military is that -- probably for the first time -- they
will have interoperable communications in joint service activities and even
in multinational operations. The bad news, however, is that they will also
be interoperable with their adversaries.
(S REL AUS CAN NZ UK) In Information Age terms, IW provides
a "digital coercion" option. The primary target of this option is the information
infrastructure of an adversary. Such information infrastructures are expected
to be primarily computer controlled, operated by the commercial-civilian
sector (unprotected), and the primary infrastructure upon which military
forces almost totally depend. For IW purposes, access to these
computer-controlled infrastructures can permit the degradation, disruption,
or destruction of the network and/or the functions they serve. As a result,
the "computers" become the intelligence "targets" of highest priority.
(S REL AUS CAN NZ UK) There are specific types of weapons
associated with Information Warfare. These include viruses, worms, logic
bombs, trojan horses, spoofing, masquerading, and "back" or "trap" doors.
They are referred to as "tools" or "techniques" even though they may be pieces
of software. They are publicly available, very powerful, and, if effectively
executed, extremely destructive to any society's information infrastructure.
(U) As a last thought in setting the stage, we expect the Information Warrior
of the future to be very different in their thought processes. They will
understand the non-physical nature of the future capabilities, will be
comfortable with working across the spectrum, and have extensive knowledge
of non-military targets. Probably most importantly, they will be comfortable
with the concept of networks. They will understand that "information operations"
are more than "operations" supported by intelligence and communications;
rather, they will understand that all three function together synergistically.
Finally, Information Warriors will understand that in the "tooth-to-tail"
accounting of personnel, military personnel will be the "tooth" and civilians
will be the "tail." Tail equates to the emerging information infrastructure,
a primary strategic target of IW.
THE BEGINNING (U)
(S REL AUS CAN NZ UK) The following articles will look in
depth at various aspects of Information Operations or Information Warfare
as they relate to NSA. "Cyberology" and our new CNA mission should provoke
much thought and discussion. It is hoped that these articles will serve as
a catalyst and basis for these activities.
FOUO) Mr. Black retired from NSA in 1997 after a long
career. He was the first Director's Special Assistant for Information Warfare,
and oversaw the establishment of the Information Operations Technology Center.
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