America will Fire Back if Fired Upon in Cyberwar

If America is attacked by cyberwarfare, then we must attack back, even if the identity of the attacker is unknown. This is the philosophy of Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, the Director of the NSA, and Obama’s choice to lead the new Cyber Command.

As the endless debate continues in congress as to defining what cyber war is, and how to respond, and whether it is a military or espionage issue, Gen. Alexander cuts to the point. “The U.S. must fire back against cyber attacks swiftly and strongly and should act to counter or disable a threat even when the identity of the attacker is unknown” and “Even with the clear understanding that we could experience damage to our infrastructure, we must be prepared to fight through in the worst case scenario,” according to a Foxnews article.

I like this attitude. As lawmakers go back and forth in a battle of words and definitions, our nation faces constant cyber intrusions from foreign nations. What we need is deterrent, and if foreign entities know that we will respond, no matter what, then they will think twice about attacking our infrastructure.

The US does have Einstein up and running on some government systems and also AT&T is testing it on their network. The system is highly classified, but according to public sources the current version can detect malicious traffic and notify the NSA. The next version will have the capability to automatically respond to an internet threat and “shoot down an internet attack before it hits its target” – Wikipedia.

Because Einstein will collect internet data there are concerns noted due to privacy issues. And people have been concerned that AT&T has been chosen for the system as they have worked with the NSA to monitor phone and internet traffic.

But something needs to be done. As Jeffrey Carr a security expert and CEO of has said, we are looking for a large “Cyber 911” attack, when in reality we are experiencing death by a thousand cuts. We are facing a flood of small incursions by foreign powers on purpose. They know that currently we will not respond to small attacks.

They also know that we will spend a lot of time analyzing the source of the attack, where with this new philosophy we will respond to the attack as it happens. Gen. Alexander’s plan is to extend the rule of war to the cyber arena. And the Rules of Engagement will be to return fire, when fired upon.

And as long as Einstein is not run by Cyberdyne Systems, and given the ability to respond with nukes all will be well right?

D. Dieterle


2 thoughts on “America will Fire Back if Fired Upon in Cyberwar”

  1. I liked the General’s attitude in his testimony as well. I read through his bio over at the NSA and he certainly knows his stuff.
    Peace Through Strength? You bet.

    “Death by a thousands cuts” is probably the most accurate description for what is happening now. Remote access of power infrastructure hardware and comms. interference could instantly turn those “thousand little cuts” into one fatal axe blow.

    When I was starting school, We were told (by a source in the position to know such things) that all phone traffic was already filtered through the telecom servers via a series of filters that picked up “trigger” words and phrases. Is this what the Einstein” system is, but on an Internet overall range?


    1. Yup, PTSFP (Peace through superior firepower) has always been one of my favorite acronyms!

      Philo, I am not 100% sure. Its a very classified system, but you can get a small picture of the puzzle from public news releases. One that links to several sources is this cnet post.

      Also wikipedia has some good info on it, including this quote,

      “In the Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) for Einstein 2 published in 2008, DHS gave a general notice to people who use U.S. federal networks. DHS assumes that Internet users do not expect privacy in the “To” and “From” addresses of their email or in the “IP addresses of the websites they visit” because their service providers use that information for routing.”

      One could assume from this quote that it means they are not just tracking packets, but email addresses and websites that are visited. This is for Einstein 2 also, and not the newer version.

      Also, tracking online surfing is not new, one major search engine appears to already be doing that.

      Pretty crazy, but when you are fighting an enemy that hides amongst the innocent it may be a necessary evil. Why Google is doing it though, I do not understand…

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