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IW Weapons

Module 6

The Lesson

Go back to intro. Go back to module 5. Go to module 7.

Notice: Due to the sensitive nature of this section, the weapons presented are ones proposed by open source (non-government) authors. The examples offered should only be considered as concepts to stimulate your thoughts on "what-if' possibilities.


The module learning objectives:

  • Explain and define the types of weapons that can be used to conduct Information Warfare.
  • To understand that each IW weapons could be used as a strategic national, theater strategic, operational, or tactical weapon.

IW weapons include the following:

Malicious software Chipping
Back doors Electromagnetic pulse weapons
Destructive microbes Van Eck radiation
Cryptology Spoofing/Authentication
Video morphing Psychological operations
Attacks on the banking system Disruption of air traffic control
Denial of service Stand-off and close-in sensors
Decision support

Malicious Software

Viruses, worms, and Clipper encryption chip could possibly have built in a secret back door so that they can easily decode messages encrypted with the chip.

Electromagnetic Pulse

Electromagnetic pulse weapons could be used to knock out enemy electronics equipment. Suitcase sized devices have been developed to do just that.

Destructive Microbes

Researchers are also working on developing microbes which eat electronics components so that, in the event of conflict, these microbes could be introduced into an adversary's electronics equipment to cause failure.

Van Eck Radiation

Van Eck radiation is the radiation which all electronic devices emit. Specialized receivers can pick up this radiation and tap a wealth of information. Fortunately, there are various safeguards against this type of attack.


Cryptology is a weapon of information warfare designed to encrypt and crack secure communications respectively. Despite significant advances in cryptography, cryptanalysis will continue to be an important weapon aided by equally significant advances in computing power.


Spoofing is an attempt to send a falsified message to someone. For example, I could dial up a university phone registration system pretending to be someone I have a grudge against, and drop their classes. Since these systems are automated, all I need to know in most cases is a person's Social Security number and birthdate.

Video Morphing

Video morphing is a weapon that could be used in a manner similar to that in the movie Forrest Gump to make an enemy leader appear to say things he or she didn't in fact say, undermining credibility.

Psychological Operations

Psychological operations (PSYOP) using all available information means to form a desired public perception. PSYOP benefits from the ability to conduct market research and analysis of regional data. As a result, customized messages and be generated for each targeted sector of society. PSYOP was very successfully in the U.S. re-instatement of Haiti's president.

Attacks on the banking system, Disruption of air traffic control, Denial of service

Various possible operations with obvious effects include knocking out telephone switches, crashing stock markets, attacking electronic routers for rail system, attacking bank accounts, disrupting air traffic control, and denying service with, for instance, a ping attack. Note: the "ping attack" gets its name from old age sonar techniques. Within a network, a computer can send systematic queries to all addresses and analyze the associated return time, very similar to sonar. Net groups with similar times of return and be associated into a hierarchical structure.

Stand-off and close-in sensors

For military applications, the use of stand-off and close-in sensors to gather data could be considered an information warfare weapon.

Decision support

As in any decision process the more information available the higher the probability of arriving at a useful solution. Likewise, computer decision support is also a key weapon in information warfare and especially in defensive information warfare. Decision support can be used to detect attacks, identify the type of attack, generate defensive options, evaluate options, and perform damage assessments. In a similar manner, an adversaries decision support system can be delayed, or disrupted with erroneous data.


Information Warfare Weapons fall into three categories: Strategic National, Strategic Theater, Operational, and Tactical. Each category has its own unique capabilities and thus requires different safety mechanisms to prevent inadvertent release. Consider nuclear weapons. They too can be employed to support a tactical, theater and/or strategic objective. However, nuclear weapons must ultimately be released for use by the President and usually by recommendation of the National Security Council. IW weaponry is very similar, but there are exceptions.

The Commander In Chief (CINC) will always implement the directions of the President. IW weaponry supporting non-military elements of power or that fall into the category of national strategic will all require NSC approval. However, operational control of IW weapons which support classic C2W has been delegated to the CINC for implementation. Likewise, traditional theater level Electronic Warfare (EW) or PSYOP that is enhanced by IW capabilities fall under CINC authority as well.

National Strategic IW weapons, will be released by the president upon recommendation of the NSC. For example, a computer virus that would cripple a nation's monetary system or may seize control of international satellites must be controlled by either the President (SECDEF if authority has been delegated). Justification: a response in-kind would have a direct impact on the American homeland, i.e. the loss of sanctuary.

So who pulls the trigger? In general the command to launch an IW attack will at least be reviewed by the National Security Council, possibly the President (weapon dependent), and ordered by the CINC. One must remember that some strategic weapons will only be released on authority of the President. Note: during the planning process the CINC will be the single person responsible for the overall campaign and will decide his or her preferred weapons of choice, but just as in the case of nuclear weapons, IW weaponry will require a higher lever of coordination and authorization for release.

Note: You must have Netscape version 2.0 or higher to run the post test.

Go back to intro. Go back to module 5. Go to post test. Go to module 7.