Defensive Information Warfare

Analogies and Realities

Defending against information attacks has a number of characteristics in common with societal efforts to combat disease, drugs, and crime. Noting these similarities helps to put this problem into perspective, provides some potential useful lessons learned, and serves as a benchmark.

Before reviewing the specific similarities between combating IWS and these long-standing problems, it should be noted that, while eradicating information attacks may not be a realistic expectation, significant progress can be made in defending against all forms of information attacks, enough so that the risks can be kept at acceptable levels. Defending, as it is used here, includes preventing attacks, blunting attacks, and controlling the damage caused by attacks.

The problem of IW-D is similar to the problems encountered in the "wars" on disease, drugs, and crime in a number of dimensions. First, the solution to any of these problems requires the efforts of a number of organizations, both public and private. Second, it is unlikely, given the competition for resources, that any of these efforts will be fully funded. Therefore, we can expect that there will never be what those who have IW-D responsibilities think are a sufficient level of funding for IW-D programs. Third, these are not static problems. Drug cartels and criminals certainly learn from their mistakes. Even viruses "learn." Thus, defense forces will be continuously locked in a battle to keep up with attackers. Fourth, public awareness and concern will reach peaks, often accompanied by frenzied efforts to solve the problem. These relatively short periods of interest will be followed by longer periods when the urgency to solve the problem will give way to apathy. Maintaining funding and progress during these periods of waning public interest will be one of the key challenges of leadership in this area. Fifth, organizations and individuals will learn to make adjustments in their behavior to deal with IW attacks and their often unintended consequences. These adjustments will be made so that those organizations and individuals can accommodate some level of painùa dynamic equilibrium of sortsùas the cost of doing business in the Information Age. Finally, solutions will, of necessity, involve compromises. This is due to the natural tensions that exist among the various stakeholders. Tensions between the law enforcement and the protection of civil liberties are classic examples that have already arisen in the information domain.

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