Although attacks by governments against their own people using the Internet get more press, warfare between countries has been spreading online for some time. Most of the instances that have come to light have been viruses designed to stop, or slow down, activities in another country that the attacking country feels threatened by, or spying operations.
The United States, like most governments, has developed teams and tools to wage Web warfare. But not all the tools are what we would normally think of as offensive weapons. The U.S. military, it turns out, can force a country that has disconnected itself from the Internet back online.
Prior to the Stuxnet virus, launched against Iran's nuclear industry (possibly by the U.S. and Israel), there were already other cyber-attacks. The United States' own power grid was attacked via its SCADA systems. The Chinese had an extensive online spying operation against the U.S. called GhostNet and have attacked on Google .
But what happens when a country shuts off the Internet. Recently, Egypt did so. Their motivations were internal. By shutting off the Internet in Egypt, its bosses hoped to interfere with the organization of domestic protests, keep debilitating information from getting out to a global audience and make it more difficult for panicking Egyptians to transfer their money out of the country.
But a country might do the same thing in order to keep an enemy from sending viruses, spying or committing other acts of web warfare. If that happened, most would think, game over for the Internet warriors. But not so, it seems.
According to an article on Wired, there are a host of methods by which the U.S. could restore the Internet to a country that has shut it off.
- Commando Solo: A USAF "airborne broadcasting center," the plane carries the equipment that makes it possible to broadcast on AM and FM radio and on UHF and VHF television signals. It also carries equipment that will restore Wi-Fi for the area below it. How is classified.
- FastCom: drone-based "cell towers"
- Satellites: some U.S. military satellites can provide internet access to the ground
- Dish & sat phones: sneaking in, or dropping in, small satellite dishes and satellite phones would be expensive, but possible
Psychological warfare would be a lot easier to accomplish using these tools than outright attacks.
Although we did ask contacts in the U.S. military for input on this story, they were not able to comment.