Secretary of the Navy: Cyber is the Future of Warfare

By Allyson Versprille

The Navy must improve cyber security protocols in everything from weapons to command-and-control systems to communications platforms as adversaries continue to invest in their network warfare capabilities, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said May 20.

"Cyber is … the future's warfare," he said during a Defense One breakfast. "Cyber is in everything now and it's not just weapon systems. It's in every system that we have."

The Navy is trying to be more realistic about how its weapon systems work and what the protocol is for when the network isn't available, he said. Russia's cyber assault before invading Georgia in 2008 is an example of how a network attack can leave a nation vulnerable, he added.

U.S. focus on cyber security is not limited to the military, he said. Electrical grids also have to be protected. That is one reason why the Navy is shifting to alternative fuels and finding ways to cut back on energy dependency, said Mabus. If the grid goes down the military can still do its job.

The service is also looking at philosophical issues such as what types of cyber attacks constitute an act of war, Mabus said. He posed a scenario of a plane crashing after the controls were seized in a cyber assault and asked whether that should be grounds for war. These questions are still unanswered, he said.

Mabus' statement coincided with the release of a memo by the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the military force of the People's Republic of China. The memo titled, "Cybersovereignty Symbolizes National Sovereignty," was published May 20 in China's PLA Daily. It stated that the "Internet has become the main battlefront for struggle in the ideological area," and stressed the importance of cyber security in ensuring national security.  

The memo expressed concerns regarding the influences of "hostile" Western forces who will try to "maliciously attack" China's current regime via the Internet, throwing the country into turmoil. "It may be said that without cyber security, there is no national security," the memo said.

"Whoever controls the network, will seize the commanding heights in the ideological struggle, and command the lifelines of national security and development in the information era," it said.

Topics: Cyber, Cybersecurity, International

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