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Information Warfare: Hackers Versus The 24th Air Force
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February 2, 2010: Less than two years after the U.S. Air Force officially dumped its planned Cyber Command, it's scaled-back replacement, the 24th Air Force, recently officially opened for business. Over the past five years, the air force has been trying to establish a new Cyber War operation and use it to gain overall control for all Department of Defense Cyber War activities. The other services were not keen on this. That resistance, plus internal problems (losing track of nuclear weapons, cost overruns on new aircraft, inability to perform on the battlefield) led to the Cyber Command operation being scaled back to being the 24th Air Force. This organization will handle electronic and Internet based warfare, and eventually become the air force component of the U.S. Cyber Command (which is supposed to start operations this year, maybe).

While the Air Force Cyber Command will not become reality, work continues on building a Cyber Control System. This is a hardware and software system that would enable the 24th Air Force to monitor, in real time, the security state of all air force networks. If any of these networks were attacked, the Cyber Control System software would immediately alert 24th Air Force controllers, and recommend a course of action. Think of this as a war room for Cyber War. Many people, deluged with TV and movie representations of high tech military command centers, believe such a Cyber War center already exists. It doesn't, and the air force is building it. If the Cyber Control System can prove itself, the air force hopes to use it run the show for all Department of Defense networks.

What the air force wanted to do was be in charge of security for the 11 million Internet users, six million PCs and 15,000 networks belonging to the Department of Defense (which is the largest Internet user on the planet). All the services are scrambling to get their Cyber War defenses strengthened, but the air force wants to be in charge. This effort is not appreciated by the other services.

The U.S. Air Force is also advocating more Cyber War attacks. Apparently there has already been some offensive operations, but no one is giving out any details about when, how, and who the target(s) were. The air force has long been in the lead when it comes to Cyber War operations and security. So far, the other services have not regarded this as a call to compete. Everyone is scrambling to defend their networks, and if the air force can come up with better tools, everyone is eager to make use of them. The Cyber Control System, however, is different, in that it would be air force generals calling the shots, and determining how a Cyber War should be fought. This might cause some inter-service friction, but if the air force is able to demonstrate some real skill in this area, they will have a better chance of being allowed to run the show.

 

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