Air Force General Urges Enhanced Cyber Deterrence

Thursday, January 27, 2011



Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton issued statements in support of developing a strong cyber attack capability to act as a deterrence factor against foreign aggressors.

General Chilton, who will retire this week from his position as commander of cyberwarfare, nuclear forces, and missile and space defenses, said the U.S. needs to be able to demonstrate a tactical cyber attack capability in order to counter mounting network threats posed by other nations.

“If we elect to use cybercapability to deter — and you don’t necessarily have to, you can use something else to deter bad cyberbehavior — [but] if we’re going to use cybercapabilities to deter, that’s going to beg for some demonstration of that capability,” Chilton told the Washington Times.

The first step is to have the capability to ascertain the origin of foreign attacks on critical networks with a level of certainty, Chilton explained.

“Attribution is more difficult in this domain but it’s not impossible. And you have to work that problem, but we are getting better," Chilton said.

Chilton noted that there are currently no plans in place to demonstrate a cyber offensive capability, but the notion is consistent with overall deterrence strategies.

“There’s no plans for anything that would demonstrate a [cyber-attack] capability at this time. But I think, if we’re going to think about deterrence, which we do at Stratcom, these are the kinds of challenges for the future for us.”

In November of 2010, British armed forces Minister Nick Harvey publicly advocated the further development of cyber offensive capabilities, noting that the threat of coordinated cyber attacks is a vital aspect of a nation's national defense.

"In every other domain (of warfare) you have the concept of deterrence and... in the fullness of time we would expect to get into a position where people understood our capabilities," Harvey said.

Information security experts have been debating many aspects surrounding the concept of cyber warfare, but most agree that the the ubiquitous nature of information technology creates an atmosphere where both offensive and defensive methods will likely be factors in international conflicts.

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