June 18th, 2013
10:36 AM ET

Opinion: Has U.S. started an Internet war?

By Bruce Schneier, Special to CNN

Today, the United States is conducting offensive cyberwar actions around the world.

More than passively eavesdropping, we're penetrating and damaging foreign networks for both espionage and to ready them for attack. We're creating custom-designed Internet weapons, pre-targeted and ready to be "fired" against some piece of another country's electronic infrastructure on a moment's notice.

This is much worse than what we're accusing China of doing to us. We're pursuing policies that are both expensive and destabilizing and aren't making the Internet any safer. We're reacting from fear, and causing other countries to counter-react from fear. We're ignoring resilience in favor of offense.

Welcome to the cyberwar arms race, an arms race that will define the Internet in the 21st century.

Editor's note: Bruce Schneier is a security technologist and author of "Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust Society Needs to Survive."

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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Roger B.

    In my opinion the act of garnering information to thwart or disrupt potential damage to Americans and Americans' assets should allow us to sleep much more at ease. Not to be disrespectful to Bradon or anyone who shares his beliefs, however, when the thier quality of life and economic status are drastically effected by an undisrupted attack they most likely will not understand. To add to the comments on 'cyberwar', we have substantial evidence of malicious corporate, military, and infrastructure hacking. I look at this in terms similar to the Cold War. For instance you have someone pointing a gun at your head, you wouldn't want to be caught with a boxing glove on. If a nation has developed a system to attack our infrastructure on a command or funding a rogue group to do so, you must have an effective counter to such a ploy. Not doing so would be awfully benevolent to our foes, and could put millions of lives at stake.

    August 17, 2013 at 3:06 am | Reply
  2. Peaceful Solution

    Actually we have been more on the defensive when it comes to intrusions on our networks and sites. It appears we didn't start the Cyber war but are now actively in preparations to engage in offensive actions or "making a strike back at the source of the initial attack". We are not just beefing up the defensive firewalls and honey pot decoys but gathering information on sources and soft spots (vulnerabilities) for attack if required to do so if continued intrusions are detected and the country responsible doesn't cease the operations when a cease operations are requested.

    We didn't start attacks by siphoning off patents and technology secrets of other countries we only endured it and brought it to the attention of the countries actively doing so. They haven't stopped so as in the old Cold War we must raise the stakes and go on the offensive to make a point. When other countries create an army of hacker to try to find every vulnerability our country's internet has and try to steal everything they can we must repair the damages and now hopefully seek a way to shutdown their operation to prevent another attack...or at least delay it.

    July 4, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Reply
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    June 27, 2013 at 4:47 am | Reply
  4. old geezer

    chicom generals have stated 1st part of their war with us will be a cyber attack back in 60s soviets had massive elint capability on roof of embassy all of them do it now do you really think nsa is only ones picking up your data

    June 22, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Reply
  5. Curtis Jones

    I am not afraid to have the government read anything, or hear anything I say on a cell. People that are must be hiding something.

    June 19, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Reply
    • Brandon

      Its not about hiding something its about our privacy as Americans. We as Americans have lost all our rights except the 2nd amendment. If our fore fathers heard of what America has become they would be turning in their graves. May God help us all.

      June 20, 2013 at 12:13 am | Reply
  6. lance

    the u.s. needs to go after communist china in a hard fast way the whole country is a bunch of cheats and patent theifs. over polluting the environment just to catch up with the west and destoy its own population with cheap slave labor for its own end.

    June 18, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Reply
    • John Geheran

      Gee lance, did you ever finish grade school? By what you posted above, it doesn't appear that way! Your anti-Chinese rant makes you look like another imbecile!

      June 19, 2013 at 8:55 am | Reply
  7. Portland tony

    All nations engage in intelligence gathering and in today's world, information gathering via the Internet is the best and most cost effective way to accomplish this end. If you don't know positively what the other guy is thinking you will, in all likelihood, make costly mistakes. It's like the old Cold War game of spy vs spy. As far as this author's opinion .....It's really absurd. What damage we do....we will receive in turn. Computer and hack specialists are not just American. We did do a nefarious hack job to Iran's nuclear program....but they've responded by shutting down a few networks worldwide! What we need to do is spend some $$ on securing our computer controlled infrastructure because that's our soft underbelly that virtually anyone with a computer can cause harm!

    June 18, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Reply
  8. George Patton-2

    Has the U.S. started an internet war? Of course it has! Only a fool with no more than a 3rd grade education would say otherwise!!!

    June 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Reply
    • John Geheran

      Well said, George. How so very true that is!

      June 19, 2013 at 8:57 am | Reply

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