The Penetrable Fortress

Is America Vulnerable to attacks on the information systems that drive its government, business, finance and military? Could a hostile nation with an army of computer hackers destroy America’s ability to wage war?

As the world’s most advanced nation, the United States may seem unbeatable. Many assume that its technical advantage automatically makes it more secure.

However, in the latest round of the arms race, the new computerized weapons and electronic equipment, while offering tremendous advantages, also have an Achilles heel that can make the nation employing them actually much less secure.

A Knife-Edged Precipice

The cia is taking Information Warfare (iw), sometimes called the “Great Equalizer,” seriously. The agency ranked it third among threats to U.S. national security. Iw can be defined as actions taken to infiltrate, corrupt, disrupt or destroy the information systems of an adversary, or to defend one’s own information systems from such attacks.

Information Warfare by itself could be used as a means of mass disruption rather than of mass destruction. However, if a nation is going to be physically attacked, the attackers may well use any means at their disposal, including iw. Military strategists admit that a nuclear attack would likely be preceded by an attack on communications systems.

Being the most technologically advanced nation on Earth, America is also the most technologically dependent. More than any other country, America’s critical military, government and commercial organizations are increasingly dependent on ever more complex information systems. Such systems run government agencies, transportation, banking, financial transactions, telephones, water supplies, and oil, natural gas and electrical power grids—without which little else can function.

In times of national crisis, the military must rely on civilian organizations such as oil, gas and transportation companies for the energy and logistics support required to keep a modern army functioning. Therefore, even attacks on the civilian information infrastructure can wreak havoc on the military’s ability to respond to a crisis. Consider also that military information is of no use unless it is available to the right people at the right time. This fact requires connectivity, and connectivity results in an increased risk of exposing data to unintended intruders. This is the flip side of the technology coin.

Even more worrisome, especially when facing budgetary restraints and cutbacks, the military simply does not have the money and manpower to keep up with the dizzying pace of technical developments in the commercial world. Thus it is turning more and more to commercially available, off-the-shelf software to fill its needs rather than devising its own, more secure systems. Much commercial software has mediocre security, leaving it vulnerable to attacks by computer hackers.

In addition, the military partly relies on the same communication networks as everyone else, including the Internet. Within the U.S., 95 percent of military data is transmitted over civilian systems. While most of this information is protected through secure connections, the risk of compromise is increased by having the systems themselves connected to public networks. “The dii [Defense Information Infrastructure] is not a separate, secure or encapsulated system, but shares common communications systems with civilian networks” (Colonel John Alexander, Future War). Alexander calls current efforts to shore up the system “embryonic” and says “the issues are so complex that they will require extensive mental and financial resources to solve.”

The iw problem is not only technical in nature, but also involves complex and murky legal and strategic issues that can hamper responding to an iw attack. For example, Stratfor Systems concluded that “the real threat from rogue states won’t be nuclear attack, but cyberattack. Rogue states won’t launch nuclear attack for fear of the counterattack. But how do we retaliate against a virus attack? We depend on computers. They don’t” (May 15, 2000).

Winn Schwartau, one of America’s leading Information Warfare experts, wrote in his book Cybershock, “The bulk of Americans do not yet understand the knife-edged electronic precipice on which we now balance.”

Tools of Invasion

Individual computers, university and corporate networks and even many military networks are all wired together on the Internet. This makes all these systems at risk to a skilled hacker. Or, too often, anyone with the right tools.

Where would the people who maintain computer systems, the network administrators, be without their “tools”—those specialized computer programs that diagnose and repair, searching computer networks for security holes and other problems? Finding security flaws on a large corporate or university network with hundreds of computers is just too time-consuming to do “manually,” one computer or file at a time. Powerful automated software tools are needed. These tools can, and do, fall into the wrong hands, though. Hackers can use them to find security leaks just as network administrators do.

The hackers also have a few tools of their own—tools almost anybody can learn to use—often made free for the taking on the Internet by the people who create them. Such tools may decipher passwords or locate security flaws, giving the hacker access to sensitive information—to read, alter or destroy.

New tools are being added all the time, and are finding a receptive market. In 1996, a cd containing information and tools for hackers sold 7 million copies in the first six months. Not to be outdone by the rest of the computer world, hackers also have their own magazines, websites and mailing lists to help them remain current. In addition, hackers often share their knowledge with each other on the Internet, so that when one trick is discovered many hackers can use it.

Many hackers have little fear of the law, since the vast majority of intrusions are never detected. Of those that are detected, most are not reported by network administrators to their superiors. And even if they are, the odds that the culprit will be found and prosecuted are slim. Most companies just don’t want negative publicity informing their customers and other hackers that they have security problems. And there aren’t enough law enforcement resources to deal with the profusion of incidents.

The Internet and computer networking have grown so explosively that there are too few of the highly experienced information security practitioners required to stem the growing tide of computer break-ins. Furthermore, the same old exploitable mistakes are still being made by busy, careless, lazy or overworked network administrators.

Probing for Weaknesses

Despite the growing awareness of the government, the response has not met the need. Government Executive magazine explained the scope of the potential problem: “Protecting information on computer networks in the federal government is a vast and complex undertaking, because agencies have become dependent on computers for almost all of their day-to-day business operations. Networks have grown so fast in recent years that very few administrators fully understand the systems they are supposed to manage. Rapidly changing technology and employee turnover make it virtually impossible to keep agency personnel appropriately trained to deal with intrusions on their networks. At the same time, the government’s growing reliance on data networks increases its vulnerability to hackers by exposing agencies to more points of entry, many beyond managers’ control” (April 1, 1999).

Today we see a growing list of nations eager to see America toppled from its position of global dominance. Considering the U.S.’s unrivaled supremacy in so many facets of military might, it only makes sense that potential enemies would seek to exploit any back-door means of undermining that supremacy.

As the Trumpet has often reported, there are many specific Bible prophecies about the eventual downfall of the United States. Isn’t it conceivable—even probable—that an iw attack would be partially liable?

None Goes to the Battle

Consider this amazing and little-known prophecy. Something will cause America to fail to respond to a massive nuclear attack. “They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none goeth to the battle: for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof” (Ezek. 7:14). The alarm of war sounds, but there is no response. Why not? Could it be that communications in America’s military command-and-control have been crippled, or that computers controlling vital weapons systems have been compromised?

In addition to disabling key weapons, there are many other ways iw could be used as a weapon of war. For example, consider the massive rioting, or “pestilence,” prophesied to come just before the nuclear attack (explained in our free Ezekiel booklet). America will be embroiled in rioting on the scale of a civil war. Millions will die in this melee and resulting famine (Ezek. 5:2, 12).

Will the foreign invader simply bide his time, waiting for America to self-destruct, or will he help initiate and ensure that self-destruction? For example, what if an information attack destroyed financial records such as those used for making welfare and unemployment payments? This would help trigger the rioting, especially among the poor. Any shrewd general knows the value of a divide-and-conquer strategy. The banks and Wall Street would be other obvious targets. Also, any attacks that take out transportation, oil, gas or electrical power could easily ignite or exacerbate rioting. These could be attacked before or during the internal chaos.

It is also possible that iw attacks from international terrorist networks or even U.S. extremists will contribute to America’s downfall. “Law enforcement has serious concerns that extreme U.S. militia groups might resort to intense cyberassaults against the government and critical U.S. infrastructures …” warns Schwartau (op. cit.). Foreign terrorists or homegrown militias could act on their own or be used as proxies by enemy nations.

Trusting in Technology

People today are mesmerized by technology. But while technology can add wealth and power to a nation, it cannot make a nation truly great. Technology cannot increase the sound judgment required to discern between good and evil choices. It cannot instill the character to choose right. It cannot unite a nation that is deeply divided over political, social, racial or moral issues. Technology has not helped solve man’s problems. As Dwight Eisenhower stated, “Science seems ready to confer upon us, as its final gift, the power to erase human life from this planet.”

In 1951 came the first hydrogen bomb. The cost of developing it was so high that nations hostile to the U.S. could not afford to develop it themselves. So they simply stole the technology. “The bomb was built in the Soviet Union far more cheaply after spies … had turned the results of the American work over to Moscow” (Len Deighton, Blood, Tears and Folly).

The original nuclear secrets were stolen from America! That is how “secure” our technical secrets have been in the past. They will be even less secure in the future. Today, sensitive information often seems to find its way onto computers connected to networks. This makes these secrets far less secure than when they were locked in a safe behind closed doors. Espionage has played an intricate role in unveiling our secrets—and will continue to do so.

Iw experts fear that it is only a matter of time until drug cartels, terrorist groups and rogue nations conduct cyberattacks. As Mr. Schwartau points out, “it would be stupid for a well-financed and motivated group not to attack the technical infrastructure of an adversary. The vulnerabilities are clear, the risks so low, and the rewards so great” (Information Warfare).

Many nations are developing iw capabilities. China has declared the U.S. information infrastructure and civilian information systems legitimate military targets. The Russians “have said that they consider an Information Warfare attack against their country or infrastructure to be second only to a nuclear attack and they will respond appropriately” (CyberShock). Rogue states like Iran, Iraq and North Korea are also currently developing iw attack capabilities.

Overlooking Germany

The threat assessments of national security analysts focus primarily on individual hackers, terrorist groups and rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. Some major world powers and traditional enemies such as Russia and China raise concerns but are not considered likely at this time to strike at the U.S. homeland.

But what about Germany?

In the June 1999 Trumpet, Editor in Chief Gerald Flurry wrote about the high degree of cooperation taking place between the U.S. and German military. Germany, he said, is “learning a lot about the modern-day computer technology that plays such a big role in U.S. military operations.” In that “Personal” he talked about how the British breaking of German military codes was a major reason for winning World War ii. He then warned: “We could lose the next war before we even begin, if somebody breaks our military codes.”

Germany is already waging covert economic warfare through maneuvers such as the strategic purchases of key power, gas, water, telecommunications and media enterprises in the U.S. and Britain. These are all prime targets for an iw attack. Germany has a history of surprise attacks against “friendly” nations. Moreover, they have large financial resources, technical expertise, a government-sponsored hacking program, and ready access to the U.S. through extensive military and business channels. They are well known for thorough planning and organization.

And, most dangerous of all, they are a trusted “friend.”

The Source of Power

Mankind is about to learn a very bitter lesson about trusting in himself and his own ingenuity. God offers to be our defender against hostile nations. God will defend any nation or individual that turns to Him (Heb. 11:31; Jer. 18:7-10). But, having rejected and forgotten the true God, the nations have left themselves to their own pitiful defenses.

It is not American ingenuity that has made America great. It is God’s blessings, including the wealth, that He has poured out on America. The wealth and power was given because the patriarchs, “thy fathers,” kept the law of God! And now it will be removed because of law-breaking!

God says He gave America the power to create wealth. So He can take it away. And He will! America is prophesied to fall—suddenly! (Isa. 30:12-13). The only thing that can change that is national repentance.

The picture that emerges from current trends is that an attack on information systems is likely to play a key role in the prophesied destruction of America. While the Bible is not overly specific, it does say an attack is coming, and that implies an attack on all America’s defenses, in which computers have become a major and indispensable part.