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U.S. military to build botnet?
Published: 2008-05-12

A colonel in the U.S. Air Force argued in a recent opinion piece that the United States needs to build its own collection of computers able to digitally "carpet bomb" enemies with a denial-of-service attack.

The capability to overwhelm attackers would help the nation deter attacks against its systems, Col. Charles Williamson III, a staff judge advocate for the U.S. Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, stated in an opinion piece in the Armed Forces Journal. Military bases could use outdated PCs as nodes on its "botnet," replacing their hard drives with a simple flash drives.

"America needs the ability to carpet bomb in cyberspace to create the deterrent we lack," Col. Williamson wrote. "America faces increasingly sophisticated threats against its military and civilian cyberspace. At the same time, America has no credible deterrent, and our adversaries prove it every day by attacking everywhere."

The U.S. military has grown more worried about cyber attacks. A year ago, online protesters attacked the northern European country of Estonia, essentially cutting off online contact to many of the nation's businesses and government agencies. Other denial of service attacks have shut down news sites and even forced an Israeli company to go out of business. While the degree to which nation-states take part in such attacks is unknown, the U.S. military has flagged China as a major future threat in cyberspace.

In his column, Col. Williamson acknowledges that using a botnet against attackers could pose serious legal issues in international circles. Botnets frequently use compromised systems owned by private groups and allies of the United States.

"The biggest challenge will be political. How does the U.S. explain to its best friends that we had to shut down their computers? The best remedy for this is prevention. The U.S. and its allies need to engage in a robust joint endeavor to improve net defense and intelligence to minimize this risk."

In the past, governments have been able to take selective military actions against threats operating in neutral, or on the edge, of another nation's territory, Col. Williamson stated.

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Posted by: Robert Lemos
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U.S. military to build botnet? 2008-05-12
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U.S. military to build botnet? 2008-05-13
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