CYBER WAR: Forward to the Past

Dr. R.L. Riggs, Director           Security Consulting Investigations, LLC  

22 February 2013


Thirty years ago, in March, President Ronald Reagan approached the American public and the Congress of the United States and gave them the hard facts about the future. In fact, he was very clear how important he felt the cause, or as he defined it, the duty is, that he was bringing before the American people. He said that it was “the most basic duty that any President and any people share – the duty to protect and strengthen the peace.” Either the United States prepares for a war from outer space or enters the 21st century with the awareness that their failure to prepare could bring annihilation.   President Reagan said that his plan would provide “new hope for our children in the 21st century” and now we stand in need of that hope. The political opponents mocked his ‘Chicken Little’ approach to his Star Wars Defense Initiative. America’s enemies, particularly Russia and China supported the President’s detractors hoping to forestall America enhancing its satellite defense systems. President Reagan saw only too clearly the threat of nuclear attacks from the upper atmosphere. He did not have the context to see, however, the role that electronics and computerization would have in this century both for good and evil. And so went the years, the changing of the guard, new presidents with new initiatives, new challenges to take up the attention of the American people and Congress. Then came the 21st century, right on schedule and America was embroiled in a war of more basic weaponry; until China unveiled their forty year quest for weapons aimed for the stars.

America and the world have flown into the cyber future at nano-speed to where almost every part of our culture is somehow inter-connected with those streams of 1’s and 0’s. Your car’s ignition will not turn over without the electronic signal from its computer chip. The traffic lights at the corner cannot function nor can water get to your home. Your furnace won’t light and your appliances will grind to a halt. For those who are dependent on medical equipment which in turn is dependent on electronics, you will need help; but, don’t try to use your cellphone to call for help… the cellphone signal won’t get through and even if it did, the ambulance drivers won’t be able to start their trucks. Prevention and deterrence are too late then.

President Reagan understood deterrence. He said, Deterrence means simply this: Making sure any adversary who thinks about attacking the United States or our allies or our vital interests concludes that the risks to him outweigh any potential gains. Once he understands that, he won’t attack. We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.” That is the whole premise behind the much mis-quoted Admiral Yamamoto warning of a ‘rifle behind every blade of grass.’

Cyber-war involves electronic attacks that need not come from a satellite. The international electronic infrastructure of the internet itself is a pathway for attack. Just this week a report by Mandiant, a major cyber-warfare defense entity clearly showed evidence of China’s involvement in the thousands of hacking attempts against the U.S. corporate structures. The connection in China went directly to a specialized unit of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) known as APT1 (Advanced Persistent Threat) a subdivision of the PLA’s 61398 unit located just outside of Shanghai.

In an almost laughable response to the allegations that his country is behind the cyber-warfare, China’s Defense Ministry told reporters of AFP (Agence France-Presse) this week that “… there was no internationally agreed definition of hacking.”[i] An AFP photographer was detained by Chinese authorities shortly thereafter when found taking photographs of the non-descript warehouse near Gaoqiao, a suburb in the north of Shanghai. The security breaches themselves are an immediate threat that must be dealt with at all possible speed. The possibility that China could use its technology for a laser attack against our power grid is even more disconcerting.

The Defense Science Board released this statement regarding Directed Energy and Electric Weapons Systems (DEEWS) almost six years ago:  

As far back as 1964, Dr. Qian Xuesen issued to China his 640 Directivve with the blessing of Chairman Mao Zedong. Among other things, the 640 Directive called for the development of a laser capable of shooting a missile out of its trajectory. The Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics (SIOM) was created. In 1970, the Anhui Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics (AIOFM) came into being alongside the already functioning SIOM. Thousands of persons have been working on the systems for decades. In 2006, “China reportedly fired a ground-based high-power laser at and blinded U.S. surveillance satellites in orbit over China.”[ii] Sean O’Conner, an internationally known analyst and author of the IMINT and Analysis blog has identified “the potential sliding hangar locations of space-oriented Free Electron Lasers at the AIOFM center in Hefei, the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics (CAEP) center in Mianyang, and the laser Anti-Satellite (ASAT) site in Xinjiang province.”[iii]

As of now, we know of three lasers: the banned blinding ZM87, the JD3 (which serves as a ‘range-finder and self-defense device’ and can be mounted on battle tanks) and the laser that blinded the U.S. satellite in 2006. Work continues, according to sources across China, on the newest and best models. Bryan McGrath of the Information Dissemination Net is concerned that the U.S. determination to get the laser weapons into the hands of the ‘warriors’ who find much more intriguing ways to utilize such weapons will not match that of the Chinese. You may want to find that old hand crank ice cream maker your grandfather used on hot summer days. It could be your only cooling thought when the winds of war blow across the barren wasteland after a DEEWS attack. President Reagan said in his ‘Star Wars Speech’ in March of 1983, We start by considering what must be done to maintain peace and review all the possible threats against our security. Then a strategy for strengthening peace and defending against those threats must be agreed upon. And finally our defense establishment must be evaluated to see what is necessary to protect against any or all of the potential threats.” Let’s pray that someone will explain that to President Obama and Chuck Hagel.

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