How did the forward defense strategy fail to protect the US from cyber-attacks?

Photo | David B. Gleason by Wikipedia

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For two years, the US Department of Defense (the Pentagon) searched for the security imbalance that allowed Russia to influence the 2016 presidential elections, and the various American intelligence agencies’ estimates of Russia’s intervention were combined to help Donald Trump reach the White House.

In 2018, the Ministry of Defense adopted the Forward Defense strategy, a pre-emptive offensive strategy that came in 10 pages and was reviewed by Al Jazeera.

The strategy indicates that the Department of Defense’s US cyber leadership will maintain its global supremacy through a continuous presence in hostile external networks to be able to confront its opponents from where they launch electronic attacks on them.

The “defense forward” strategy was considered successful, as it prevented interference in the 2018 congressional elections and the 2020 elections. Still, it failed completely even to reveal the recent breakthrough, which most intelligence estimates believe Russia is behind.

Amid the great controversy caused by the cyber-attacks, US officials ignore the catastrophic failure of a strategy that some considered a great wall against any high-caliber cyber attacks.

The thrust of “forward defense”

The strategy indicated that the Internet era created new opportunities and challenges for successive US governments. With it, access to documented information became a vital interest of the US states.

The Pentagon’s cybersecurity strategy directs “the department to defend the future, deal with everyday developments, and prepare for war by building a more lethal force, expanding alliances and partnerships, attracting talent to work with us, and repelling our competitors and enemies.”

The strategy targeted 5 main points in the field of cybersecurity:

1. Ensure that US cybersecurity forces can fulfill their missions in a dangerous cyberspace environment.

2. Enhancing the capabilities of cybersecurity forces to conduct operations that enhance US military advantages.

3. Defend the vital infrastructure of the United States from any cyber-attacks.

4. Securing the Pentagon’s information, systems, and networks against any cyber-attacks.

5. Expanding the scope of cooperation in the field of cybersecurity with partners, whether in the private sector or at the international level.

The strategy was adopted to confirm the high cost of the United States’ opponents to conduct malicious or harmful behavior in the field of electronic espionage.

Forward defense
The Forward defense strategy targeted 5 main points in the field of cybersecurity

All alternatives are on the table

With the extent of the attacks on the ministries of defense, treasury and trade, nuclear laboratories, and with it the National Health Institute, and other government agencies, in addition to many major companies, the scale of the attacks rose, calling for the need to respond.

Thomas Bossert, a former official in charge of cybersecurity in the Trump administration, called for Washington to “reserve its right to self-defense unilaterally, and the necessity to rally allies to punish Russia,” while Democratic Senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin, considered that “this is almost a declaration of war.” By Russia over the United States. ”

For his part, Stanford University Professor Jack Goldsmith said, “The United States lacks any principled basis for complaining about the Russian infiltration, not to mention retaliation against it by military means, as the US government penetrates the networks of foreign governments on a large scale every day.”

Goldsmith noted that intergovernmental espionage in peacetime is as old as the international system, and it is practiced today on a large scale, especially using electronic tools and means.

He believed that the Russian penetration might cause tremendous harm to national security, but it does not violate international law or international standards.

As the “defense forward” strategy indicated, the United States is penetrating foreign government computer systems on a large scale and regularly.

Hence, some experts believe that the recent hacking operations could be simply a case of espionage from a government trying to understand its opponent.

At the beginning of the Trump era, the US national security strategy had explicitly indicated that China and Russia were seeking to challenge the power, influence, and interests of the United States.

It is widely believed that the recent breach is one of the most damaging operations in recent years, although it is not clear the size of the losses or the importance of the information that may have been viewed, copied, or corrupted.

Michael Daniel described what happened as an “information-gathering operation,” is doing which the United States

Everyone is spying … but!

After Chinese government hackers hacked the FBI and accessed the records of 22 million Americans, former US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said, “You should salute the Chinese for what they did, if we had the opportunity to do so, I don’t think we will hesitate for a minute”.

“It was an information-gathering process, which is what countries including the United States are doing,” Barack Obama’s cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel said this week in describing what happened.

The recent attacks demonstrated that the forward defense strategy of penetrating hostile networks to thwart enemy attacks on US networks was not successful.

The New York Times indicated that Washington had spent billions of dollars assembling the world’s most powerful arsenal of weapons and electronic means and implanting them in networks worldwide.

As part of the forward defense strategy, American devices have planted malicious programs within the Russian electricity grid to immobilize it in order to warn and deter the Russians not to interfere with American computer systems.

The United States is widely seen as the most powerful cyber power in the world. From the point of view of Washington’s opponents, America uses its advanced technological tools to spy on the world. Despite spending tens of billions of dollars on cybersecurity, the United States has failed miserably to protect its public and private digital networks.

President-elect Joe Biden considered that a good defense was not enough and said, “We need to disrupt and deter our opponents from carrying out major cyberattacks in the first place.”

These words were not new in essence, as they focus on the Pentagon’s cybersecurity strategy, which has not deterred or disrupted the recent attacks.

Source: Al Jazeera