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Chapter 5
Vulnerabilities and Countermeasures

Identifying vulnerabilities of the Cyber Situation and its associated components, then developing potential countermeasures, leads to additional features and attributes that should be integrated into the Cyber Situation requirement list. This chapter begins by identifying vulnerabilities of the Cyber Situation and then states possible countermeasures that eliminate the vulnerabilities.

Vulnerabilities

Numerous vulnerabilities of the Cyber Situation system and its associated components exist. The vulnerabilities naturally fall into three primary categories man-made threats (space debris and offensive weapons), environmental threats (meteors, asteroids, and radiation), and human threats (capture, defection, and espionage).

The first threat area, man-made, generally designed to destroy, disable, or degrade its targets. The effects may be either permanent or temporary and may consist of hard and soft attacks. Adversaries achieve "hard kills" by physical destruction of the Cyber Situation through destruction of system components. Specific methods of attack may include antisatellite weapons, electromagetic pulse (EMP) weapons, and nuclear detonation devices. Conversely, "soft kills" attack the internal logic within the operating capability. An example of soft attack is syntactic attacks of the operating logic inside the IIC and collection computers. The resultant loss or decrease in effectiveness, if not replaced in a timely manner, will have dire consequences on military operations.

Less obvious military vulnerabilities come from the second threat area, environmental, which includes solid debris that disintegrated or decomposed from celestial or man-made materials. Expert views differ as to whether asteroids really pose enough of a problem to develop defenses against the threat.115 Nevertheless, the threat results from the kinetic energy produced by the projectiles roving through space at rapid velocities. Even the smallest fragments pose a potential threat to IIC and satellite collectors. Other environmental threats include radiation and charged particles which come primarily from the sun. These "space weather" effects may be gradual or instantaneous. These effects are usually difficult to detect until after catastrophic failure.

The last threat area involves people and can be subdivided into two categories: the capture of our people implanted with the microscopic chip and the espionage and defection to the enemy side. All three categories of threats (man-made, environmental, and people) will destroy, disable, or degrade our ability to perform tasks that support our core capability of information dominance.

Countermeasures

Countermeasures include both passive and active activities that can be used against a variety of threats. The following paragraphs describe several activities and discusses their effect on vulnerabilities.

Distributed System Architecture

The defensive goal behind the use of a distributed system architecture for the IIC is to deny the enemy a center of gravity to attack. In other words, use of this type of architecture will deny the enemy the IIC as a target that if destroyed "would cause a system failure or cascading deterioration within the system," allowing the enemy to achieve its objective.116

The network of IIC satellites are interconnected using the "star" interconnectivity, which has lines radiating out from each satellite to other satellites (fig. 5-1).117 Essentially, the satellite constellation forms a "mesh" over the earth's atmosphere.118 The interconnected mesh allows for graceful degradation so that if the enemy physically destroys a percentage of the IIC, it does not lead to a total loss of effectiveness. Further, because of the interconnectivity, the mesh knows to compensate and fill in the gaps created by the destruction. The mesh has no center of gravity so if the adversary wants to defeat the IIC, it must be destroyed in total.119

Figure 5-1. Information Integration Center Interconnectivity

Source: Microsoft Clipart Gallery© 1995, courtesy of Microsoft Corporation.

Figure 5-1. Information Integration Center Interconnectivity

The "Small and the Many"

Components that feed information and support the IIC will be composed of many inexpensive sensors, emitters, microsats, and miniprojectiles. Similarly, the IIC mesh also consists of many small satellites (minisats) that are inexpensive and easy to launch. Current minisat development and designs produced satellites that weigh several hundred pounds and measure about three cubic feet. Recent advancements in electronics and miniaturization have given impetus to smallsat concepts that weigh approximately 20 to 30 pounds and are smaller than shoe boxes.120

The qualities of redundancy, miniaturization, and low cost will describe future components that make up the IIC. The "small and the many" concept results in a system that is redundant and difficult to completely destroy.121 Like the IIC concept, this concept allows the enemy no center of gravity to target, therefore, no single point of failure. Further, even if adversaries destroy a portion of the network, it will still survive and operate.

"Smart" System

Inherent in the IIC system is the built-in capability to fuse, correlate, and, most importantly, deconflict contradictory inputs and data points. Therefore, when adversaries attempt information warfare by injecting false statements (syntactic attacks) into the logic tree, the computing system within the IIC will recognize the inconsistencies and deconflict them. The IIC consists of a body of knowledge and an "ability to learn" to know when a possible conclusion is invalid or simply does not make sense.122 When the IIC detects inconsistencies, it will seek additional data either to validate or invalidate its own conclusions.

If the individual attempts to enter a particular Cyber Situation when the IIC concludes there are invalid resolutions, it will inform the user of the potentially false inputs and its attempt to resolve the data confliction. If the individual desires, the IIC will show the conflicting data and why a possible conclusion is invalid.

Optical Computing

Much research continues in this area of optical networks to transmit, receive, and store information. The technology appears promising and at minimum would seem a plausible radiation defense.123 The use of optical computing in the IIC (to receive inputs from other collectors and users, to respond to users' requests to develop the Cyber Situation picture, or to task lethal and nonlethal assets) would serve as protection against radiation threats. Radiation attacks systems that use electrons to transmit data. Since optical computing employs photons instead of electrons, these photons render optical computing systems safe from EMP threats.

Low Earth Orbit

Employing the IIC in a low earth orbit (LEO) will minimize exposure to environmental radiations. Compared to other orbits, the LEO naturally is exposed to lower levels of radiation. By contrast, medium orbits have the highest levels of radiation, primarily caused by the Van Allen Radiation Belts, while at the geosynchronous orbit, the radiation level is higher than the low-earth orbit but lower than the medium orbit.124

Internal Deactivation

If captured by the enemy, users with the implanted microscopic chip may self-deactivate the chip and render it useless. Further, the chip disintegrates and cannot be extracted by the enemy for reverse engineering or for adversarial reasons.

External Deactivation

When faced with the disturbing events of espionage and defections of friendly users to the enemy side, the IIC is engineered with the capability to deactivate and disintegrate the offender's implanted chips. The highest level commanders within the US military have the authority to access the IIC and order the system to deactivate the defectors' chips the next time they try to activate the Cyber Situation.

"Zap" Attack

"Zap" attack relies on the decision-support technology built into the IIC and its link to space-based laser weapons. As individual satellites within the IIC network sense an object (man-made or environmental) moving toward its network, the IIC will compute the object's directional objective, velocity and acceleration, and Doppler shift to determine whether it is a threat. If the decision is affirmative, the IIC will instruct the nearest space-based laser weapon to destroy the object and eliminate the threat to the IIC system.

"Mutual Dependence"

Once implanted, the microscopic chip will operate only when the individual is alive because the chip creates mutual dependence on its host. In the unfortunate circumstance where a Cyber Situation user dies, the implanted microscopic chip becomes nonfunctional and disintegrates. This operational dependence of the chip upon its host prevents adversaries from using a chip from a deceased war fighter.

Summary

Table 15 presents a list of threat categories and associated countermeasures that will address each type of threat. Note that each countermeasure may be effective against more that one type of threat.

Table 15 - Countermeasures Versus Threats

Threat

Countermeasure

Man-made

Environmental

Human

Distributed System Architecture

X

X

--------
"Small and the Many"

X

X

--------
"Smart" System

X

--------

X

Optical Computing

X

X

--------

Low Earth Orbit

--------

X

Internal Deactivation

--------

--------

X

External Deactivation

--------

--------

X

"Zap" Attack

X

X

--------

"Mutual Dependence"

X

--------

X

Though numerous vulnerabilities exist with the Cyber Situation, by 2025 effective countermeasures likely will be integrated into the system. Well-developed measures to defeat these man-made, environmental, or human threats can make the Cyber Situation more effective to the war fighter. Chapter 6 goes beyond threats and countermeasures and will explore potential structure and doctrine changes required to achieve and take full advantage of the Cyber Situation.


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Contact: Air Force 2025
Last updated: 11 December 1996


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