When the American cybersecurity company McAfee announced it had traced a series of attacks against corporations and governments to China’s mainland, the specter of cyber warfare drew still closer after independent attacks from hacker-activist groups Anonymous and LulzSec had demonstrated the weakness of many computer security networks. “In May 2010 the U.S. military appointed its first four-star general to direct its defensive and offensive capabilities in cyber warfare,” says Nobel Laureate Gary Becker.
What’s the Big Idea?
Becker recognizes that major military offenses still depend on the deployment of troops but that smaller operations are increasingly carried out remotely, through the use of drones or cyber attacks such as the Stuxnet virus that crippled an Iranian nuclear power plant in 2010. Defense and economic networks rely increasingly on powerful computers connected to the Internet, which makes them vulnerable to attack. The most confounding quality of cyber warfare, says Becker, is the ability of the attacker to cover his or her tracks. For this reason, concerted international action is necessary.