Plan X, new lymph to US cyber warfare capabilities

Pierluigi Paganini June 04, 2012

Recent events have demonstrated the strategic importance of the cyber strategy the needs to chair the cyber space, many experts sustains that the cyber war era is just begun, due this reason the Pentagon is involving the private companies, universities and even computer-game companies to develop technologies to improve its cyber warfare capabilities.

Events such as the diffusion of Flame malware and the revelations on the genesis of Stuxnet are inducing many concerns of US administration regarding the possibility of cyber attacks against America.

Obama administration is massive investing in the cyber warfare preparing its structures to respond to cyber threats and also creating the condition to launch effective attacks against foreign and hostile states. If confirmed the ‘Olympic Games’ operation if the first sample of offensive conducted in the cyber space and arranged without conventional weapon, using digital attacks instead of military operations.

The project that will involve also private non-military entities in what is considered “a call to arms” has been names Plan X, it is more oriented on protecting the Defense Department’s computer systems than on disrupting or destroying those of enemies. Plan X is a project of the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), a Pentagon section responsible for the development of new technology for use by the military.

“Because the origins of cyberattack have been in the intelligence community, there’s a tendency to believe that simply doing more of what they’re doing will get us what we need,”

said Kaigham J. Gabriel, acting director of DARPA.

“That’s not the way we see it. There’s a different speed, scale and range of capabilities that you need. No matter how much red you buy, it’s not orange.”

According the fundamental of a military tactical one of the main aspects of a war is the deep knowledge of the battlefield, for this reason one of the main projects to be financed is the tracking of cyberspace and all entities that populate it, its map have to be updated over time to allow precise monitoring of main area of battle. Other projects will be related to the hardening of Operating Systems to resist to any king of cyber attacks in different scenarios, probably mobile as desktop.The officials seems to have a clear idea of the OSs of the future, totally different from the one we ordinary use.

Many experts sustain the one of the primary target is to develop a new generation of cyber soldier, artificial intelligence able to prevent cyber attacks and that is able to conduct powerful offensives automatically. The research program promoted by DARPA agency has a duration of five years and will be financed with $110 million starting from this summer. The agency has allocated a total budget of $1.54 billion from 2013 to 2017 with the specific target to increase cyber-offense capabilities.

Projects such as the X Plan marked a turning point in approach of US government to the matter, which expects to the opening a sensible contribute, a new lymph. Cyber warfare has always been a dark field, unchallenged domain of intelligence representatives, now the Pentagon intends to ask for support to private industry to develop new cyber weapons.

But are we confident that the project Plan X is not simply a pretext to formalize what is going on for years?

The recruitment model proposed is not new and has long been adopted by other major powers such as China. In an ideal situation the institution should start from below, from schools to present the cyber threats and educate students on the techniques of prevention. This should only be a first step, which should be followed by the arrangement of specific hacking training programs. Many Eastern countries, especially China, are investing heavily in the potential of its young people who are now enrolled and engaged in intense training programs to increase their cyber capabilities.

Let consider the Chinese model, these new recruits are primarily interested in the subject and the central government provides a wide range of relief for deserving students and their families. This in my view means looking ahead, prepare for a future that is radically changing the way we live.

It is required a global change involving the new generation, giving to young people tools and knowledge to understand how disastrous can be a cyber attack and how much is sensitive to the choice of participating in a protest action style Anonymous. We tell them that with the same mode of attack it is possible to offend a hostile country, damaging telecommunications systems and other critical infrastructure.

The program launched by DARPA, in my opinion, comes in a crucial moment in which the strategic importance of the garrison in the cyber space has become a prerequisite for the cyber strategy of each country. Projects such as Plan X does not add anything new to the operational reality of many states, but it has formalized collaborations that go on for years in more or less transparent way.
Cyber Weapons , systems and applications for monitoring, malware for cyber espionage make use of the contribution of private industry for years.
The road is the right one, and we crossed the threshold of a new era, one where the fight wars with cyber weapon and bits instead of guns and bullets, in which the hackers are a new generation of soldiers.

Pierluigi Paganini



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