'Logic Bomb' Race Panics
Russia - Cyber Warfare
Invisible And Deadly
By Matthew Campbell
The Sunday Times (London)
From Gerry Lovell <>

Fearing it has slipped behind America in an arms race involving secret weapons of the future, Russia is proposing an international treaty to control "information warfare", an invisible but deadly threat that could be used as effectively as missiles and bombs.
It may sound like science fiction, but around the world military planners are acknowledging that "cyber warfare" will play an important role in future conflicts. Not since the advent of nuclear bombs half a century ago has the world confronted weapons with such potential for altering the way in which warfare is waged.
Already secret army research departments in Russia and America are racing to perfect "logic bombs" and computer viruses designed to create havoc in an enemy country by destroying computer networks controlling weapons systems, financial transactions and even traffic.
Igor Ivanov, the Russian foreign minister, wrote to Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary-general, last month warning that the effect of information weapons "may be comparable to that of weapons of mass destruction".
In another development the Russians presented a proposal for "international legal regimes to prohibit the development, production or use of particularly dangerous forms of information weapons" to the UN.
According to Peter Feaver, an information warfare expert at Duke University, North Carolina, the secrecy and lack of official guidelines surrounding the research are reminiscent of America's early years as a nuclear power "before the political leadership understood what nuclear weapons could do". A military official once told him: "If we waited around for political guidance, we wouldn't be able to do anything."
The full extent of America's information warfare capabilities is a closely guarded secret. According to some reports, the American military has been developing ways of implanting "worm viruses" in foreign computer networks to spread confusion. The Pentagon fears that Russia, China, Iraq and Libya have similar programs.
An announcement by President Bill Clinton in May of measures to build ramparts against the threat of a "digital Pearl Harbor" made no mention of America's capacity to conduct its own attacks. But George Tenet, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has told Congress: "We're not asleep at the switch in this regard."
He testified last year that information warfare techniques were already being deployed in the battles against terrorism and drugs. Computer hacker technology, he said, had been used to disrupt international money transfers between Arab businessmen supporting suspected terrorists.
Clinton has pledged to make America safe within five years from "asymmetrical" threats, a term used by experts to describe the theoretical danger of a relatively weak and insignificant adversary taking on - and defeating - a superpower with a few taps on a laptop computer. America's extreme dependence on computer technology makes it the most vulnerable nation on earth. At the same time, however, its technological advantage renders traditional adversaries wary.
Russian anxieties about being left behind in the information weapons race have been heightened by reports that the CIA has sabotaged some computer systems exported from America to the former Soviet Union. This involved putting "bugs" in computers that could be activated by CIA hackers thousands of miles away.
The Russians are pressing for a UN debate about information warfare, urging Annan to submit a report at the 54th session of the general assembly next year.
"We cannot permit the emergence of a fundamentally new area of international confrontation, which may lead to an escalation of the arms race based on the latest developments of the scientific and technological revolution," Ivanov wrote to Annan.
With its political instability, low military morale and lack of resources, Russia is in no position to compete with America in the field of high technology. It has already fallen behind in tackling the "millennium bug", expected to cripple computer systems at the start of the next century.
Russia's ineffectiveness in making its imported computer systems immune to the bug has raised fears in the White House that the Kremlin might misinterpret any disruption over the millennium as an information warfare attack and retaliate with nuclear weapons.
A US defence department report earlier this year described how an information warfare attack might unfold. It starts with an unexplained power blackout in a large city. Telephone systems across the country become paralysed. Freight and passenger trains collide. Civilian air traffic control systems go haywire. Malfunctioning pipeline-flow control mechanisms trigger oil refinery blasts.
As alarm spreads, "logic bombs" disable the financial system, disrupting money transfers and causing stocks to plunge on world exchanges. Automatic teller machines randomly credit or debit customers' accounts. Sensitive weapons systems malfunction.
"[An] information war has no front line," says the study. "Potential battlefields are anywhere."
In a military exercise involving senior Pentagon and intelligence officials last year, a scenario was mapped out in which India and Pakistan were on the verge of using nuclear weapons.
The participants were asked whether America should interfere, using information warfare techniques to alter the capability of both countries so that neither had a clear picture of the battlefield. The debate was inconclusive.