Retired US general Michael Hayden, the longest serving head of the National Security Agency, and a former director of the CIA, has warned of the dangers of cyber war, and outlined how the military is preparing for online conflict.
Hayden said during his keynote presentation at Black Hat 2010 that the US military had traditionally operated in four spheres: ground, air, water and space.
The internet is now the fifth domain, and is the first man-made location for warfare, since the others were "made by God", according to Hayden. "God did a better a job," he added.
The problem with the internet, Hayden said, is that it has no real security systems in place. He compared it to the North German plain that has been used by invading armies throughout history.
Everything online is in the attacker's favour, while there is virtually nothing for the defending team, he said.
Hayden expressed irritation at the overuse of the term 'cyber war'. Stealing documents from government servers is not cyber war, he said, but espionage that is as old as the nation state.
An actual cyber war could have dramatic real-world fallout, Hayden warned, suggesting that leading nations should band together to outlaw online warfare for fear that it could cause immense damage.
It is not always possible to determine who is carrying out online attacks, making it difficult to bring the perpetrators to justice, according to Hayden. Much more work is needed to beef up defence and attacking skills, he said.
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