USIS Washington 

25 August 1998


(Author James Adams discusses the new "front line") (1000)

By Susan Ellis

USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- "Computers are the weapons and the Front Line is
everywhere" -- the subtitle of James Adams' new book on the future of
warfare -- succinctly defines what "information warfare" has come to
mean: waging war on a nation's infrastructures, water supplies,
electric power grids, bank computer systems, and even national defense
systems, without putting at risk a single soldier's life.

The author, until recently chief executive officer for United Press
International and now head of his own company, spoke to U.S.
Information Agency staff members about his book, "The Next World War,"
which deals with the threat of cyber attack.

Describing the potential impact of a cyber attack on a nation, Adams
said, "What this represents for those who have the capability is the
opportunity to wage war not by deploying soldiers in a conventional
sense, or a battlefield with thousands on both sides and many
thousands dying, or even deploying missiles in the conventional way --
but instead launching through cyberspace bits and bytes that can
effectively destroy a potential aggressor before the troops meet each
other on the battlefield."

For example, he said, it means turning out the lights of a metropolis;
"it means stealing or preventing the foreign exchange from operating
properly; it means interrupting the information flow in a foreign
country and inserting your own information flow so that you wage a
very effective psychological operation against a potential enemy."

Adams added, "These things sound quite mild but in fact they can cause
the kind of loss of life that a very large bombing campaign might
equally achieve."

He cited a recent dispute between the United States and Iraq during
which efforts were detected to interfere with the U.S. logistics
infrastructure in the Gulf region. The disturbance was tracked to a
building in Abu Dhabi, he said, "and the assumption was that this was
Saddam Hussein waging information warfare (IW) against America in
advance of the military action." However, when Americans appeared at
the relevant building, "it turned out to be a router along the
internet" and in fact, the attack was being launched by some teenagers
in Seattle, Washington. Adams said the incident illustrates both the
challenge and the opportunity the new technology affords.

He cited another case that took place last summer in which a simulated
cyber attack named "Eligible Receiver," was launched by the U.S. Joint
Chiefs of Staff and several U.S. security agencies. In the simulated
exercise, an unfriendly foreign power, by means of computer hackers,
attempted to disrupt the United States' response to an international
crisis. The "hackers," U.S. government personnel, bought their laptops
from local computer stores and "successfully demonstrated that they
could with ease break into the power grids of all the major American
cities from Los Angeles to Chicago to Washington, D.C., to New York."

The hackers at the same time broke into the telephone industry's
emergency reporting system and then were able to move onto the command
and control system of the Pentagon. "Over the course of a few days,
they interrogated 40,000 networks and got root-level access to 36 of
them. They were able to go deep inside the command and control
structure and could have, if they had so wished, prevented that
structure from working effectively," Adams said. He noted the exercise
demonstrated that "35 people using publicly available information with
skills that were available around the world," could have prevented the
United States from responding effectively to a security threat.

"That is an extraordinary demonstration of the power that information
warfare represents in its purest sense, and it is that power that has
attracted the United States to invest very large sums of money --
billions of dollars -- in developing an effective offensive
capability," he said.

"The potential of information warfare is attractive but it's also
extremely threatening" to economically-strapped countries, Adams said,
adding that IW is "fundamentally changing a dynamic which has existed
for a long, long time and that has helped sustain stability between
states." That dynamic is that "the government decides pace of change
by and large, and is an instrument for a lot of the change. You
develop a new weapons system, it takes quite a long time for that
weapon system to go from the country that generated it initially to
trickle down to a Third World country that hasn't got the capability.
You're looking at a 20 year cycle."

Adams says some argue that the cyber age is producing an ever-wider
gap between the haves and the have-nots. The less developed countries
believe "they can't trust any of the information sources that they
have, and that they're very vulnerable to being destroyed effectively
from within, but actually from without, from thousands of miles away
without a shot being fired," the author said. Consequently, they argue
that "we need arms control agreements to deal with information warfare
in exactly the same way as we have throw weights for missiles and
accurate areas of probability and so on."

Adams makes the point that information warfare is not about nations,
emphasizing, "It's about the power that is given to individuals. I
have the power, the capability, of sitting in my home...with my
computer and my modem -- if I only understood how to do things like
that -- to wage war. And that is a very different environment than
anything that we have experienced in the past."

He says a beginning point is "to try to educate people about these
issues and to encourage not only public awareness but more action by
those that have the ability to spread the word and thus create
defenses against what is going to be an extremely aggressive
environment in the next century."