'What if?' scenario: Cyberwar between US and China in 2020

Mar 23, 2011

As Iran's nuclear plant attack and Chinese-based hackers attacking Morgan Stanley demonstrate how the Internet can wreak havoc on business and governments, a new paper by a fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy hypothesizes what an all-out cyberwar between the U.S. and China might look like.

To date, the cyberattacks in East Asia have been relatively benign, said Christopher Bronk, author of "Blown to Bits: China's War in Cyberspace, August–September 2020," published this month in the U.S. Air Force journal Strategic Studies Quarterly. Bronk is a fellow in information technology policy at the Baker Institute and a former U.S. State Department diplomat.

"Web pages are defaced, allegations of espionage are leveled and, generally, a status quo of sorts is maintained. The threat politics of the cyberdomain, however, do not stand still," Bronk said. " has been deeply impressed by U.S. information dominance since the 1991 Gulf War. China has produced a considerable literature of strategic studies for cyberoperations while developing a national firewall system that shields the country from a considerable portion of Web content.

"The United States, too, has made strategic moves in and is in the process of building a Department of Defense cybercommand that will manage the efforts of thousands of civilian and military 'cyberwarriors,'" Bronk said.

With an increasing number of countries around the globe developing military cybercapabilities, Bronk chose to consider how a conflict with major cybercomponents might appear. "Basically, many in the information-security community have been saying either, 'We're in a cyberwar with China' or 'It's time to prepare for a cyberwar with China.' The points I'm trying to make are, first, that cyberwar is not a substitute for real warfare but instead may be a component of conventional or unconventional military action, and second, that there's a great deal of very conventional thinking on this very unconventional topic."

Explore further: Twitter rules out Turkey office amid tax row

More information: To read the complete paper and the fictitious scenario, visit www.au.af.mil/au/ssq/2011/spring/bronk.pdf

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Baker Institute policy report looks at cybersecurity

Feb 24, 2011

A new article written by a fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy calls on the intelligence community to jointly create a policy on cybersecurity and determine the degree to which the U.S. should protect ...

Scientist urges new look at government 'Web-tapping'

Dec 02, 2008

The technology of government surveillance has changed dramatically, and the rules governing surveillance should be changed accordingly. Chris Bronk, a fellow in technology, society and public policy at Rice University's Baker ...

Diplopedia a success at US Department of State

May 20, 2010

A new study released today by Rice University and the U.S. Department of State's (DOS) Office of eDiplomacy looks at the five-year history of creating and implementing Diplopedia, DOS' use of the Wikipedia-style diplomacy ...

China Telecom denies US web hijack allegations

Nov 18, 2010

State-owned China Telecom on Thursday rejected US claims that its servers "hijacked" highly sensitive Internet traffic on American government and military websites earlier this year.

Recommended for you

Twitter rules out Turkey office amid tax row

17 hours ago

Social networking company Twitter on Wednesday rejected demands from the Turkish government to open an office there, following accusations of tax evasion and a two-week ban on the service.

How does false information spread online?

19 hours ago

Last summer the World Economic Forum (WEF) invited its 1,500 council members to identify top trends facing the world, including what should be done about them. The WEF consists of 80 councils covering a wide range of issues including social media. Members come ...

User comments : 12

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Mar 23, 2011
Didn't really see a scenario anywhere is this article? Would have been better if it was a little longer with some more predictions on what might happen.. overall ..... 2 maybe even a 1 i juss feel a little generous today.
not rated yet Mar 23, 2011
Maybe people may want to read the blogs on this Physorg.com article titled "China plugging holes in 'Great Firewall'" to see how some are so very ignorant

not rated yet Mar 23, 2011
I'm sorry but my conventional thinking is that the main purpose of this paper is to present the name of Mr. Bronk to conventional thinkers as an authority and potential study grant recipient.
not rated yet Mar 23, 2011
Get linux.
not rated yet Mar 23, 2011
The way i see it is thus:

If you want a computer to be fully protected from Cyber Terror, there is no firewall in the world that will stop a savvy hacker or group. The ONLY way to ensure protection for sensitive data and systems is to completely remove access to and from those computers over the internet.

No workable system will ever be able to stop those who are determined to break in. What we need to do is really look at why sensitive data and systems are accessible via the internet.
5 / 5 (2) Mar 23, 2011
i mean yah, there are abstract ways of getting meaning out of this article but i was pulled in under the belief that i was about to read a serious what if scenario... that i did not get.
4 / 5 (1) Mar 23, 2011
I had hoped there would be a scenario played out in this article as well. There is little information beyond.. "China and USA could have a Cyberwar sometime in the future.. be afraid"
not rated yet Mar 24, 2011
and kaas yah linux is nice i run it too, but same issue their except for the fact that the hacker is just brute forcing his way into your box and then ruining you day. lol
not rated yet Mar 24, 2011
Your version of linux is probably ordinary, and not even SELinux.
not rated yet Mar 24, 2011
no, im just saying it can still be hacked into. No matter what custom modifications you make to your system.
not rated yet Mar 24, 2011
Only if you are at the computer itself, have lots of time and have the source code of that particular version of linux.

Conclusion, its impossible, unless you have developed it and put some backdoor in it.
not rated yet Mar 24, 2011
A secure custom linux kernel is *VERY* difficult to hack into. With proper setup, and what not, one can make it virtually impossible.

If the proper steps are taken with BIOS and Physical Security (lock on door, security guards, live montiored cameras) it is possible to reduce the possibility of a system being hacked to virtually zero.

Most hacking jobs are done using Social Engineering techniques which involve tricking you into giving away your password, or by breaking a simpler system to gain a password you use on multiple systems (hacking your MSN acct to get your password which is the same you use for your bank, etc).

When REAL hacking is done, the target is USUALLY WIN or MAC based, and even then it's usually a matter of taking advantage of a program installed on the OS not a hole in the OS it's self (using ActiveX or Flash for instance).

More news stories

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

A way of making hundreds—or even thousands—of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks without using any memory or processing power has been developed by engineers at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Microsoft CEO is driving data-culture mindset

(Phys.org) —Microsoft's future strategy: is all about leveraging data, from different sources, coming together using one cohesive Microsoft architecture. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Tuesday, both in ...

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, ...

New clinical trial launched for advance lung cancer

Cancer Research UK is partnering with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer – marking a new era of research into personalised medicines ...

More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

A 9-month-old boxer pup named Duncan barreled down a beach in Oregon, running full tilt on soft sand into YouTube history and showing more than 4 million viewers that he can revel in a good romp despite lacking ...