16 July 2013
New Bletchley Park and Ethics of Cyber Warfare
Naval Postgraduate School lists these IO research projects:
"Initiative to establish a New Bletchley Park to exploit, undermine
terrorist use of Web/Net, under aegis of VCJCS & USDI". [Vice Chairman
Joint Chiefs of Staff & Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.]
"DIA working with Prof. Dorothy Denning and NPS students to secure dot-com
domains of contractors."
Long-ago Cypherpunk nemesis Professor Denning was elected in the first group
to the Cyber Security Hall of Fame.
Apropos NSA offensive cyberwar policy which disturbs Bruce Schneier, Denning
was interviewed last month on "Ethics of Cyber Warfare:"
The United Nations Charter prohibits the use of force by one state against
another, but in the cyber world, where are the borders and what constitutes
Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Defense Analysis Distinguished Professor
Dorothy Denning is viewed by many as an icon in the field of information
security, but has spent the last several years adding the ethics of cyber
warfare to her fields of exploration.
Denning teaches a class titled, "Conflict in Cyber Space" that attempts to
address the legal and ethical issues raised by cyber warfare. Her students
include members of NPS' recently inaugurated Master of Science in Cyber Systems
Operations (CSO) degree program, as well as members of the Joint Information
Operations program and others on campus. The CSO program is training the
Navy's first generation of cyber warriors.
"We focus on the law of armed conflict as well as issues related to censorship,
privacy and surveillance ... It is a required course in the CSO program,"
Denning helps her students navigate the murky waters of cyber ethics, where
battlefields may consist of layers of code rather than the mountains, seas
and planes that have historically defined combat areas of operations.
Despite the legal ambiguity of some questions, Denning makes a seemingly
powerful case for both the legality and the moral imperative to seek cyber
approaches to conventional warfare objectives.
"If you can achieve the same effects with a cyber weapon versus a kinetic
weapon, often that option is ethically preferable ... If an operation is
morally justifiable, than a cyber route is likely preferable, because it
causes less harm," said Denning.
Denning and fellow NPS Assistant Professor Bradley Strawser make the argument
in a recent paper addressing cyber ethics.
In "Moral Cyber Weapons," Denning and Strawser argue, "At least with some
kinds of cyber weapons, not only can they adhere to the principles of just
war theory, but that a positive duty to employ them can arise, at least in
certain contexts ... The reason for this moral obligation is that cyber weapons
reduce both the risk to one's own military and the harm to one's adversary
and non-combatants. Overall, cyber weapons are more humane, less destructive,
and less risky than kinetic weapons for achieving certain military effects."
Denning insists that cyber attacks are not as new as they may appear; pointing
out that cyber operations have been used in the past in conjunction with
"When Israel bombed Syria's nuclear facility [in 2007], they used a cyber
operation to shut off Syria's missile defense systems," she notes.
Still, Denning notes that the red line in the realm of cyber warfare - which,
if crossed, could lead to kinetic warfare - has not been breached.
"We haven't crossed the threshold where a cyber attack has initiated a kinetic
response," said Denning. "What we are seeing primarily is espionage, and
we have never responded with military force to espionage."
Much of the espionage that Denning refers to centers on business and economic
interests, but Denning is quick to point out that in our global economy,
there are limits to what state actors can do without harming their own interests.
"Our interconnected economies serve as a deterrent to cyber sabotage that
would damage the economy. I think that a state would be very cautious about
damaging another nation's economy because it would likely damage their own
economy in the process," said Denning.
The conversation that researchers like Denning and Strawser have initiated
at NPS will no doubt continue. The U.S. military and both its allies and
foes have made tremendous human and economic capital investments into the
burgeoning arena of cyber defense. What will come of these investments remains
to be seen, but their ethics and conformity with international law is already
an area of particular emphasis within the cyber operations community at NPS.