The Stuxnet Computer Worm: Harbinger of an Emerging Warfare Capability – CRS Report

The Stuxnet Computer Worm: Harbinger of an Emerging Warfare Capability - CRS ReportIn September 2010, media reports emerged about a new form of cyber attack that appeared to target Iran, although the actual target, if any, is unknown. Through the use of thumb drives in computers that were not connected to the Internet, a malicious software program known as Stuxnet infected computer systems that were used to control the functioning of a nuclear power plant. Once inside the system, Stuxnet had the ability to degrade or destroy the software on which it operated. Although early reports focused on the impact on facilities in Iran, researchers discovered that the program had spread throughout multiple countries worldwide.

From the perspective of many national security and technology observers, the emergence of the Stuxnet worm is the type of risk that threatens to cause harm to many activities deemed critical to the basic functioning of modern society. The Stuxnet worm covertly attempts to identify and exploit equipment that controls a nation’s critical infrastructure. A successful attack by a software application such as the Stuxnet worm could result in manipulation of control system code to the point of inoperability or long-term damage. Should such an incident occur, recovery from the damage to the computer systems programmed to monitor and manage a facility and the physical equipment producing goods or services could be significantly delayed. Depending on the severity of the attack, the interconnected nature of the affected critical infrastructure facilities, and government preparation and response plans, entities and individuals relying on these facilities could be without life sustaining or comforting services for a long period of time. The resulting damage to the nation’s critical infrastructure could threaten many aspects of life, including the government’s ability to safeguard national security interests.

Iranian officials have claimed that Stuxnet caused only minor damage to its nuclear program, yet the potential impact of this type of malicious software could be far-reaching. The discovery of the Stuxnet worm has raised several issues for Congress, including the effect on national security, what the government’s response should be, whether an international treaty to curb the use of malicious software is necessary, and how such a treaty could be implemented. Congress may also consider the government’s role in protecting critical infrastructure and whether new authorities may be required for oversight.

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Modern Warfare, Intelligence and Deterrence: The Technologies That Are Transforming Them (The Economist)

Modern Warfare, Intelligence and Deterrence: The Technologies That Are Transforming Them (The Economist)An in-depth look at Western military technology from the experts at The Economist

Much has been made of the limitations of Western technology when pitted against today's low-tech insurgencies. Modern Warfare, Intelligence and Deterrence: The Technology That is Transforming Themexplores emerging high tech military technologies and places them in the larger context of today's politics, diplomacy, business, and social issues, arguing that, broadly speaking, defense technologies will continue to provide enormous advantages to advanced, Western armed forces.

The book is organized into five parts: land and sea, air and space, the computer factor, intelligence and spycraft, and the road ahead (which examines the coming challenges for Western armies, such as new wars against insurgents operating out of civilian areas). Comprised of a selection of the best writing on the subject from The Economist, each section includes an introduction linking the technological developments to civilian matters.

  • Looks at new and emerging military technologies, including the Panzerfaust-3, a German shoulder-fired heat-seeking antitank missile, the MPR-500, an Israeli precision bomb, Russia's Sizzler, an anti-ship missile that can travel 300 kilometers, and many others
  • Explains how military and intelligence technologies are changing the world
  • Edited by Benjamin Sutherland, a writer for The Economist and expert on the social, political, and business implications of new and disruptive technologies

A fascinating look at Western military technologies, Modern Warfare, Intelligence and Deterrenceis essential reading for business readers and history buffs, alike.

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Bombs and Bandwidth: The Emerging Relationship Between Information Technology and Security

Bombs and Bandwidth: The Emerging Relationship Between Information Technology and SecurityA multidisciplinary view of Information Technology as it is used by governments and criminal organizations alike.

Why buy a multi-billion-dollar satellite and go to extreme lengths to try to avoid governmental detection when you can just buy a bit of airtime and send one of several million messages going out at any given time?—from Bombs and Bandwidth

Information Technology (IT) has become central to the way governments, businesses, social movements and even terrorist and criminal organizations pursue their increasingly globalized objectives. With the emergence of the Internet and new digital technologies, traditional boundaries are increasingly irrelevant, and traditional concepts—from privacy to surveillance, vulnerability, and above all, security—need to be reconsidered. In the post-9/11 era of “homeland security,” the relationship between IT and security has acquired a new and pressing relevance. Bombs and Bandwidth, a project of the Social Science Research Council, assembles leading scholars in a range of disciplines to explore the new nature of IT-related threats, the new power structures emerging around IT, and the ethical and political implications arising from this complex and important field.

Contributors include: Ralf Bendrath, Michael Dartnell, Robert J. Deibert, Dorothy Denning, Chris Hables Gray, Rose Kadende-Kaiser, Susan Landau, Robert Latham, Timothy Lenoir, Martin Libicki, Carolyn Nordstrom, Rafal Rohozinski, Marc Rotenberg, Janice Gross Stein, Rachel Yould.

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