20 January 2013


War drives technology forward.  From the first government contract for muskets with interchangeable parts leading to the industrial revolution, to the use of RADAR in WWII, to the use of GPS in Desert Storm.  Conflict makes nations and individuals strive for some sort of equipment advantage over the adversary.

War has always been fought over terrain.  Sun Tzu touched on the concept of "non-geographic terrain" in the third chapter of "The Art of War."

It is best to attack your enemies plans.
It is next best to attack your enemies alliances.
It is next best to attack your enemies Army.
It is worst to attack your enemies cities.
The first two things to attack are not geographic or formation specific (although they can be, depending on how you want to attack plans and political alliances).  These exist in the "human terrain."  Today we look at this and call it "Information Warfare" or "Lawfare" depending on how it is accomplished.

Today we have something that Master Tzu could not have dreamed of, instantaneous worldwide communications.  From round the world radio, satellite, telephone, and internet capabilities there exists the shared infrastructure that every government (and non-government groups and individuals) use to do things like "planning" and forming political alliances.

Imagine for a moment that you are the chief of a tribe in Ozztailia, and some government entity wants to put a bridge across a river on your tribal land.  For some reason you do not want this bridge, how would you go about it? 

According to Sun Tzu the best thing to do is to attack the enemies plans.  This means that the enemy has to have some level of planning, such as a budget set aside for the bridge.  The tribe could bring legal challenge after legal challenge to the bridge construction so that it becomes cost prohibitive for the government, this is using Lawfare to attack the plan.  Alternately the tribe could attack weak points between the Bridge Building Government Division and the Environmental Stewardship Division, in essence attacking the alliance.  When the bridge guys have to fight the people they are "nominally allied" to they are probably not going to be fighting you.

If anyone is following the recent rash of "registered helicopter landing pads" in rural areas where the wind energy companies are trying to build windmills, this is a form of attacking the enemies alliances.  Once the FAA recognizes a helo pad, then it is a DOE/FAA fight, not an old farmer against a relentless corporataion.

All of what I wrote above is background information for what I really want to write about, neutralizing a technological advantage.  Say that the security for the construction site building this bridge is a series of wireless IR cameras.  How would you defeat that?  I wouldn't blow them up.  I'd just find out what frequency the cameras are transmitting back to the base station on and then jam the heck out of it.

Ever wonder how important electrical engineers and hobby radio folks could be in a high tech insurgency?  When you think about all the wireless data links that modern forces rely on, then you understand that denying those links is important.  In WWII US radio operators complained that German forces would jam their radio frequencies and make them change channels constantly.  A Hollywood starlet (and a much better looking woman than half the current crop) by the name of Hedy Lamar worked with a musician to use the principle of player piano roll to automatically change frequencies, and thus the concept of "Frequency Hopping" was born. 

Now if you want to jam a "frequency hopping" radio you have to either know the hops, or jam the whole spectrum (jammers are like machine guns or indirect, if what you are doing isn't having the desired effect you need to use more).  And that is how you frustrate your enemies plans, by denying them terrain through information operations or lawfare, or denying their tactical decision making capabilities.

Spot the error in logic.  Give up?  There are only two weapons listed.
Other than the two dudes standing and kneeling, everything else is just a tool

None of this is new, the concept of "electronic warfare" have been around since before WWI.  What is new is the idea of "cyber warfare" which has been around in science fiction almost as long as it has been around in science fact.  Instead of attacking the links between devices, a cyber effect attacks the function of a device.  Stuxnet is a good example of a cyber attack that had a destructive effect.  Less lethal effects are DNS exploits or other malware that creates botnets.  A denial of service (DOS) attack takes out key nodes in the comms infrastructure. 

Right now the lawyers are arguing about where civilian hacking transitions into an act of war.  So far no one has a good answer to that and I don't have anything meaningful to add to that argument.

The picture I found on my timeline on Facebook.  It isn't that a rifle and a pistol can beat the entire might of the US Armed forces.  And while someone posted that "they have silhouettes of civilian planes" I happen to know that those "civilian planes" are actually special purpose aircraft which have some pretty awesome capabilities (even the loach is good for spotting arty and recon).  The point is that other than two guys, everything on that poster is just a tool.  And a tool doesn't do the work, a weapon doesn't win the fight.

 Think.  Understand the box, think inside and outside the box.  Turn thoughts into understanding.  Turn understanding into action. 


Ryan said...

I think part of the point is to find the weakest point and attack it with the least possible risk.

Shooting down a helicopter is pretty hard. Breaking into a base and blowing up the FARP and the helicopters is probably a suicide mission. However stopping a couple fuel trucks and threatening or killing the drivers can have the same effect. Joe/ Abdullah the truck driver isn't willing to get his head cut off to deliver fuel. No fuel means helicopters can't fly.

Like in your example instead of the risk and exposure of blowing up the cameras just wire a home made jammer into a power source and check on it occasionally. Somebody who is knowledgeable could probably build such a thing for a couple hundred bucks from radio shack stuff.

Anonymous said...

The moral component of war is what I believe Napolean commented on as the most important facet of war.

While the 2A community all too often retreats into debates on minuate conducted from the safety of deep basements the tyrant types invent new methods and attack venues of propaganda to destroy the moral component.

Except for Matt Bracken, he is a treasure worth his boat's weight in 5.56. RobRoy

Anonymous said...

Hacking can be simply categorized into 3 activities, i.e. not new:

Vandalism (and temporary vandalism)

There are types of hacking that do not cross the legal line that are equally as valuable such as intelligence gathering. There's a website with many hacking talks posted that can give some pretty impressive skills to good guys, and all for free: irongeek.com

Also, addressing your poster Ryan above comments - There is a 3rd way. One could use off the shelf technology to accomplish that. If a regime such as Noriega's was actively attacking civilians today with their technology, all one would need to do is program a cheap DIYdrone to fly a incendiary over their fuel depot. There would be no friendly casualties and limited risk. It's all autopilot, launch and leave from about a mile, or with a RC plane, MILES away! For the cost of a rifle, you could have 2 of them. Technology works both ways.

AM said...


What is new is that you don't have to be physically present to conduct sabotage, theft, vandalism, or espionage.

Ever see a server farm with REALLY good cyber security, but really crappy physical security? It used to be the other way around, companies had really great physical security but piss poor cybersecurity.

Anonymous said...

I can probably add some background to this. My local utility suffered a big time outage of their intranet/internet system when one of its managers opened an email attachment from a disgruntled customer. A power plant recently had to be shut down because a contractor bugged the plant's SCADA with a bad download.

So you see these coal and nuke plants are basically targets for green terrorism, call it a reverse STUXnet program.

Or we have Max Velocity and his novel's plot line of ChiCom perfidy dealing with the electrical distribution system.

Not that patches cannot be placed (see Y2K) it is just alot of cooperation is necessary to maintain a sophisticated system or its cost become prohibitive. Heck I bet our government could keep Ft. Lewis in permanent operation even if some no goodniks kept shooting the line insulators on the high tension lines and causing current drops, it would just cost more. robroy

Anonymous said...


You are correct, now physical and cyber security is pretty much crap all around for most large orgs including defense contractors. There is simply too much attack surface to defend, and the defenders are largely unimaginative, incompetent or under-funded / not listened to.

The exploitable avenues for attack are to a scale of unknown limit in these organizations, and the quantities of people mad at these organizations are growing every day. Coupled with management and government's tendency of normalcy bias and hubris which blinds them, It is simply a function of time before they get taken down.

In the end, it means that systems that are in place now are analogous to the dinosaurs watching the comet reach terminal velocity on re-entry. Systems will need to be of an optimum (small) scale to survive and that can be defended. Size makes you fragile.

Anonymous said...

If you take ot a large part of the phisical infastruture that feeds the modern world, power ,cell repeaters ect., Your server farm is useless. Take out the downlinks, the sat. is useless. Stop the fuel trucks, the helos , tanks and gennys stop running. Q; How bad did it hurt when the Talaban cut the Kiber pass? Find the choke point, cut off the supply ,kill the army . A modern PLATOON takes how much LOG. per day to stay in combat?

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the above commenter, supply trains are almost always one of the top targets. Starve them...

Anonymous said...

Destroy economic infratstructure along with transportation and communications infrastructre and you will bring authority to its knees. Bridges, powerlines, dams, tunnels, food processing plants, waterways, power plants.

Then hit the personnel. Watch the wheels grind to a halt. You don't need to eliminate the head. Mostr revolutionaries go after low level authorities and soon there is no one to cooperate with the Obamaists.