- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2001

The commander of the U.S. Space Command said yesterday he is worried about China's growing capability to conduct computer warfare against U.S. military networks.

Air Force Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart also said North Korea, Iran, Iraq and other nations are working on cyber-attack capabilities that threaten the U.S. military's increasing reliance on information systems.

Regarding the Chinese, he said: "We see it espoused in their doctrine, but we don't know if they in fact intend to use it, when and how they would use it and what the triggering mechanism would be.

"It concerns us when we see these capabilities out there," Gen. Eberhart said during a breakfast meeting with defense reporters.

Like the use of satellites for communications, "we've become so reliant on our computer systems, our information, and as we train and exercise and are involved in these contingency operations, we've come to take those capabilities … for granted," he said.

China's official military newspaper, Liberation Army Daily, stated in 1999 that the Chinese military planned to elevate information warfare to a separate service on par with its army, navy and air force.

U.S. intelligence officials have said China has conducted military exercises involving information attacks. China also is suspected of conducting some computer attacks on Taiwan's computer infrastructure.

Computer warfare could involve blocking the military's use of computers by introducing viruses or firing electromagnetic bursts to disrupt operations.

Or, "worse yet, display information on our computers that was wrong," Gen. Eberhart said.

Military commanders are more concerned about acting on falsely supplied computer information than having no information at all. Loss of computer access is less of a problem because those engaged in combat could rely instead on intuition or experience on the battlefield, he said.

"The worst thing to do is have the wrong information and act as a result," Gen. Eberhart said.

The U.S. Space Command, which the four-star general heads, is located in Colorado. It provides warning of a possible missile attack, tracks objects in space and would be in charge of conducting warfare involving space weapons.

Recently, the command became the military unit in charge of what the Pentagon calls "computer network defense" and its offensive counterpart, "computer network attack."

The military has "a long way to go" in preparing for cyber-battle, he said.

The problem is that the technology and techniques of computer network attackers in the hands of potential enemies keeps advancing as the military develops ways to deter and stop them.

"Right now we're pretty good at what I call a 'burglar alarm,' like a burglar alarm that you would have on your house so that when somebody opens the window or crawls inside we know they are there," he said. "What we need is a neighborhood watch. We need to know when they are getting close."

That will require better monitoring of computer networks for unusual activity.

"The sad part of this is that although we worry about state-sponsored … capabilities out there from other nations, this is an area where terrorists can certainly play, this is an area where [drug] cartels can play," Gen. Eberhart said.

Checking the origin of computer network attacks is difficult and it is hard to discern whether an attack comes from a foreign state, a terrorist group or a teen-age hacker, he said.

Asked which countries he worries about in addition to China, Gen. Eberhart said: "I think that you'll see North Korea obviously is becoming interested in this. I think you'll see Iraq and Iran are interested in developing these capabilities."

India and other technologically advanced countries, while not in the same category, also could carry out information warfare, he said.

"Any country that has that type of activity in terms of computer networks, in terms of software development, I think you could assume they could apply that for military purposes, if they so choose," he said.

Although he did not mention Russia, other U.S. intelligence officials have said Moscow is working on computer network-attack capabilities.

On offensive cyber-warfare, Gen. Eberhart said, "We're looking at all applications of computer network attack."

The general said his command conducted a war game earlier this year that played out a space warfare scenario in 2017 between unidentified nations that planned a conventional invasion, and a country with well-developed space attack capabilities.

Gen. Eberhart said the United States has a rudimentary anti-satellite weapon "on the shelf" that could be used in a conflict but that blowing up satellites is a "last ditch option."

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