- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2001

Russia and China are developing military capabilities to attack U.S. computer-based infrastructures through information-warfare strikes, a senior CIA official told Congress yesterday.

Lawrence K. Gershwin, the national intelligence officer for science and technology, told the Joint Economic Committee that some nations have stated publicly that cyber-warfare will be a key form of future military operations.

"We´ve certainly seen that from countries such as China and Russia," Mr. Gershwin said, noting that several other nations have "active" information-warfare development programs. He declined to provide further details, noting that the information was classified.

U.S. intelligence officials said Russia, China, North Korea and Cuba are among the nations that have active information-warfare development programs. Military officials have identified Iran, Iraq and India as nations working on information warfare.

"We watch them very intensely," Mr. Gershwin said. "Some of them are aimed at the United States and some of the others are probably aimed at others."

China´s official military newspaper, Liberation Army Daily, stated in a 1999 article that the Chinese military intended to make forces for computer attacks a separate service on par with its air, land and naval forces. The military newspaper said China was working on "paralyzing," "blocking" and "deception" software.

U.S. vulnerability to computer attack was demonstrated in a Joint Staff war game called Eligible Receiver conducted several years ago. During the game, computer specialists posing as North Korean agents were able to shut down military communications for the U.S. Pacific Command, which would be in charge of U.S. forces in a conflict in Korea.

The computer specialists also demonstrated the capability of shutting down the electrical power grid in the western United States during the war game, say officials familiar with the exercise.

The Pentagon is focusing on information warfare — offense and defense — as part of the strategy reviews under way and as part of the Quadrennial Defense Review.

Mr. Gershwin said individual hackers do not have the capability of mounting a major attack against computer networks that control critical U.S. infrastructures — such as finance, telecommunications, electrical power, transportation and other vital functions.

"For the next five to 10 years or so, only nation-states appear to have the discipline, commitment and resources to fully develop capabilities to attack critical infrastructures," he said.

"National cyber-warfare programs are unique in posing a threat along the entire spectrum of objectives that might harm U.S. interests," Mr. Gershwin said.

The CIA official said computer viruses — malicious codes designed to disable or damage computers — probably will become more sophisticated and "more suitable for weaponization."

Mr. Gershwin said the miltiary´s reliance on private telecommunications networks means a foreign power could break into government computer systems.

"While we may be working with American companies on issues at some point, there are contracts and subcontracts," Mr. Gershwin said. "It gets hard to tell who´s doing the work for you."

"When a commander at the Pentagon tries to call a commander in the field," said Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican and ranking member of the committee, "he´s connecting with Verizon."

• This article is based in part on wire service reports

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