Air Force News Flash: "Cold War Has Given Way to Cyberwar."

The Air Force has been feeling neglected lately, since they're not very visible in Iraq and Afghanistan. They faced two options: (1) Do their (important) jobs quietly and be glad they're not getting blown up, or (2) launch a major ad campaign reminding America that they are in charge of Air, Space, and Cyberspace. (No word on whether they had to squabble for jurisdiction with the Department of Transportation over the Information Superhighway.) They chose option (2) for the low, low price of $81 million over the next two years.

I know this, because this morning I was innocently trying to read Slate.com when the screen blacked out. Then a logo appeared. It was Air Force, reminding me that this time it was just my friendly neighborhood Air Force deploying an annoying new kind of pop up ad, but next time it could be a "cyber attack." It was a (very) slow day at Slate (except this excellent piece), so I bailed and clicked through on the Air Force ad.

The centerpiece of the campaign's page is a series of stuttery, balky videos showing about how the Air Force is protecting us in "a changing world": "You used to need an army to wage war. Now all you need in an Internet connection." According to the first video, "the Cold War has given way to cyberwar." Who knew? Note: the visual for "cyberwar" in several of the videos is a newspaper story about an attack on Estonia. But whatever.

I'd post the video here, but the people tasked with defending cyberspace didn't offer me the kind of options that come standard with YouTube. In fact, I can't even link to particular videos directly. Also, anyone who uses the word "cyber" as a prefix this often is probably still hanging out somewhere in the late '90s.

I realize we can't assume that the technological and verbal backwardness of the ad agency in charge of this campaign reflects what's really happening inside the Air Force's "cyber defense" arm. But it's terribly not reassuring about the brass who approved this campaign.

They've mastered the art of the pointless Internet poll, though: A poll on the home page asks "Do you believe cyberwar is a possibility?" At post time, 84 percent of respondents say "Yes." Yikes.

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  • Episiarch||

    Damn it, I knew the military was behind Wintergreen. We need Case!

  • Episiarch||

    Wintermute. It's been a while since I read it.

  • ||

    Isn't the NSA exactly and precisely the agency on the line in "cyberwar"? A quick peek at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSA shows that USAF generals are slightly overrepresented as NSA directors (compared to Army and Navy officers), but it's not a gimme to the Air Force.

    Though it's true, I guess, that the NSA leadership was portrayed as USAF officers in the Will Smith/Gene Hackman/Seth Green joint Enemy of the State.

  • ||

    Clearly, they think we'll be under attack from the Cybermen.

    This is exactly why we shouldn't have gone off the gold standard, people!

  • ||

    "Cyber" is derived from the Greek, Κυβερνήτης, which means pilot or rudder. Clearly, the Air Force just means that it's prepared to attack the U.S. Navy on a moment's notice.

  • Jackson Kuhl||

    Also, anyone who uses the word "cyber" as a prefix this often is probably still hanging out somewhere in the late '90s.

    They're clearly using synergy to be pro-active about thinking outside of the box.

  • Jordan Golson||

    The Estonian attack was quite serious, actually. I wouldn't discount it based on the fact that it's a small country. Also, after the Pakistani "mistake" with YouTube this weekend, it sort of makes you think, doesn't it?

    Hit & Run is usually right on target. Not this time.

  • ||

    If I were with the Air Force and wanted to justify my existence beyond the whole "air force" thing, I'd talk about space: "Whoa, the Chinese shot down a satellite! So did we! Need more cool space weapons! What does the Navy know about space? Nothing!"

  • ||

    I'm just waiting for the no-knock chatroom raids to begin.

    "Hey baby, want to cyber..."
    "CYBERWHAT MOTHERFUCKER! DOWN ON THE GROUND!"

  • ||

    What Pakistani You Tube mistake?

    I noticed You Tube was down Sunday. Was that Musharrif?

  • ||

    thbbbbbbbt.
    Air Force schmear force. I trust Microsoft, Google, and Verizon about oh... a hundred trillion times as much as I trust the government to defend me against cyber attacks. Talk about a bad idea. I'm sure congress will be passing legislation to make the USAF sole defenders against cyber attack. Yep, expecting that bill in 5... 4... 3...

  • Definitely not the NSA||

    No! The NSA has nothing to do with cyberspace! Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! It's the Air Force! The Air Force!

  • Franklin Harris||

    The Air Force is already in charge of the Stargate program. What the hell more do they want?

  • Ska||

    Just wait until the USAF starts mass-producing their fleet of ROFLcopters.

  • Taktix®||

    Shouldn't cyberspace be covered by the Commerce Department, since it's a series of tubes and likely make in several states?

  • ||

    What Pakistani You Tube mistake?

    YouTube outage might have been caused by Pakistan

  • Bingo||

    They need to merge the Air Force with the Army again because it basically exists to support the grunts on the ground and advances in communication technology have started to merge them again already.

  • GILMORE||

    FWIW, the reason for the ads is that Air Force recruits are a very different class of individual from Army/Marine/most Navy folks. Getting into the Air Force Academy is a pretty serious academic achievement. I dont know what enlisted recruits are like, but I still assume they're far more IQ focused than meat & muscle.

    They tend to focus on brainiacs - engineer types - who also have extensive achievements in other areas. But brainiacs are hard to find, and they're hard to convince to sign away their near future for the slim chance of *maybe* one day flying. Less than 10% of Academy grads ever get to fly ANYTHING. More likely than not they are working a desk. (aka "The Chair Force"... or as marines say, "the Farce")

    Anyway, the point is, they have a fairly narrow target market in contrast to Big Green, and it's actually a much harder sell (counterintuitive but true), so obviously they'll want to play up the "Nerd Chic" of 'cyberwar' to appeal to the dude playing counterstrike online at 3AM. Frankly I dont think it's much different than Marine ads that show guys climbing mountains with ropes and shit. Good luck finding a marine patient enough for that shit.

    I mean, the fact they were advertising at Slate should tell you something. Not exactly 'Soldier of Fortune'

  • ||

    The cliches and misconceptions encouraged by this particular post might lead one to think that Ms. Mangu-Ward isn't a tech writer, but rather studied something more humanities-related in college...

    Perhaps she was a political science and philosophy student at Yale, rather than an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science student at MIT?

    But I suppose I shouldn't argue that qualifications shouldn't effect the validity of someon else's snark...

  • GILMORE||

    gorgonzola's foil | February 26, 2008, 1:11pm | #

    Isn't the NSA exactly and precisely the agency on the line in "cyberwar"?


    Not nearly that simple.

    Air Force is responsible for strategic air defense, satellites and telecommunications/counter-communications (i.e. jamming/monitoring other people in theatre)... lots of shit related to beaming encrypted data around in the air and over wires. Plus the relatively new 67th Network Warfare Wing that is formed to fuck OTHER people up electronically and stuff. So it's not purely "protecting americans from...hackers and shit". In fact that has nothing to do with it. If i remember, Air Force is also responsible for protecting nuclear sites and other fun jobs.

    The satellite command has a pretty fresh-looking website.

    http://www.afscn.com/

  • GILMORE||

    to agree with Rob...

    My reason for posting was that I dont think KMW 'gets it', really, and is making much ado about nothing. Promoting misconceptions... yeah, maybe. More of a non-event.

  • Episiarch||

    The Air Force is already in charge of the Stargate program. What the hell more do they want?

    No, the IOA is now in control of that. The Air Force is pissed and wants some new turf.

  • ||

    So... if we have a "cyber-war" does that mean we do battle on Second Life?

  • Sandy||

    Uh, the Estonian "attack" was actually a disaffected teenager DDOSing a bunch of sites via a Russian zombie network.

    It really wasn't new, except the type of targets.

    There's nothing cyberwarriors can do, unless they're going to forcibly take Windows off the market.

  • kinnath||

    Ms Mangu-Ward has yet to post a story regarding technology in any form that I thought had any real merit.

  • GILMORE||

    Bingo | February 26, 2008, 1:45pm | #

    They need to merge the Air Force with the Army again because it basically exists to support the grunts on the ground ...


    ?

    Uh. Tell that to a nuclear warhead.

  • ||

    Cyberwar is not only a danger, it is a reality already! As we type these words, the farkers, freepers, kossacks, slashdotters, and all the sundry scum and villainy from craigslist are massing their internet armies and preparing to come really beat us up where we live at our houses, after they find our addresses using a free internet white pages and zero in on the right one by announcing them threateningly until they hit one we no longer laugh at. Cyberterrorists know what Americans as a society have yet to recognize: the internet is serious business.

  • ||

    Chancellor,
    I demand satisfaction. I shall see you at dawn on the field of griefing.

  • Taktix®||

    There's nothing cyberwarriors can do, unless they're going to forcibly take Windows off the market.

    Want...to...agree...with...intervention...must resist...

  • whiskey||

    i keep on declaring cyberwar against those blue jerks on team fortress 2 (RED 4 LYFE WHUT) but they keep on respawning :(

  • ||

    Uh, the Estonian "attack" was actually a disaffected teenager DDOSing a bunch of sites via a Russian zombie network.

    And 9/11 was actually a bunch of religious nutcases armed with nothing but box cutters, what's your point? Damage was done. And the fact that it only took one disaffected teenager to shut down an entire country doesn't make me feel that cyberwar/cyberterrorism or whatever you want to call it, isn't a serious threat. If one disaffected teenager can do that much damage, imagine what 2 or 10 teenagers or maybe even possibly a dedicated team of foreign nationals or insurrectionist anarchists could do.

    seems a very real and serious threat to me...

  • Dickin D\'Ass||

    All that we're saying...is give war a chance !!!

  • ||

    Titan Rain was the U.S. government's designation given to a series of coordinated attacks on American computer systems since 2003. The attacks were blamed on Chinese in origin, although their precise nature (i.e., state-sponsored espionage, corporate espionage, or random hacker attacks) and their real identities (i.e, masked by proxy, zombie computer, spyware/virus infected) remain unknown. The designation "Titan Rain" has been changed, but the new name for the attacks is itself classified if connected with this set of attacks.

    In early December of 2005 the director of the SANS Institute, a security institute in the U.S., said that the attacks were most likely the result of Chinese military hackers attempting to gather information on U.S. systems. [1]

    Titan Rain hackers gained access to many U.S. computer networks, including those at Lockheed Martin, Sandia National Laboratories, Redstone Arsenal, and NASA.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titan_Rain

    Moonlight Maze is the U.S. government's designation given to a series of alleged coordinated attacks on American computer systems in 1999. The attacks were traced to a main frame computer in Moscow but it is not known if that is where they originated. It was claimed that these hackers had obtained large stores of data that might include classified naval codes and information on missile guidance systems, though it was not certain that any such information had in fact been compromised. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonlight_Maze

    But who cares right, because 'puters are only used for ebay, wikipedia, and xbox, right? so let's keep cracking jokes, it's not like any of the financial markets or security systems or national infrastructure has anything to do with 'puters...

  • ||

    Comrades! Cracking jokes imperils vital State secrets! For the sake of the global proletariat, ask yourself before speaking whether what you intend to say advances Soviet interests!

  • ||

    oh, and the disaffected teeanger is the the only person they've caught and convicted, that doesn't mean he was the only one involved.

  • ed||

    an annoying new kind of pop up ad

    Like the one here?

  • ||

    That raises a good question--do banks and other private sector entities need the government's help with cybersecurity? Or is it more the other way around?

  • Dickin D\'Ass||

    That raises a good question--do banks and other private sector entities need the government's help with cybersecurity? Or is it more the other way around?

    The Government RUNS everything

  • ||

    OT and apropos of nothing in particular, I checked out the link KMW provided to the Slate article she called (excellent piece) then linked from that page to an Onion Radio News item http://www.theonion.com/content/node/74367

    It was worth it...

  • ||

    Cyber-dominance? HOT!

  • ||

    Right now, less than 1/2 of one percent of Americans are serving on active duty in the US military. Add the Reserve & Guard forces and that figure balloons to about 3/4%. And if we count the approximately 25 million veterans who have served, that still means only about 8% of all Americans have served in the military. And this article shows just how clueless most Americans are about their armed forces.

    I'm sure it's amusing to you to imagine all these powerful generals as being so out of touch with today's world that they've created what to your narrow view is some misguided and dated effort to be hip. That ain't it at all. As GILMORE and rob already pointed out, they know their target demographic and they're going after it. Besides, although some general in the AF had to approve the new campaign, it was GSD&M Idea City who created it.

    Yeah, I suppose "cyber" is outdated, but "cyberspace" is the word the AF came up with back in the 80's to define the emerging arena of warfare that involved our's and our enemy's computer networks, and the safeguarding and disruption of communications ... and the word still works for us just fine, thank you.

    Generals might not be too hip regarding pop culture, and we shouldn't want it any other way. What they are experts in is warfare.

    Make fun all you want, they're keeping your butt safe at night.

  • Rhywun||

    I agree that the Air Force likely targets more technically-inclined people. And likely more willing to submit to authority, too, if they're willing to put up with #$#@$ pop up ads. Anti-authority limp-wrists like myself already block all ads, and miss out on all the "goodness".

  • Rhywun||

    PS. I agree with some other commenters that there's a real risk to our computer systems, which control so much of our lives, being compromised; however, I'm not sure the Air Force is the proper authority to deal with it, and I'm definitely sure that couching it in terms of "war" is just silly. But it makes the threat more "real", I suppose.

  • Sandy||

    Shane--

    Did you PANIC!!!!1! when Yahoo, Buy.com, eBay, Amazon, Datek, E*Trade, and CNN were taken out in February of 2000?

    Civilization failed to crumble then. Estonia is still around, too.

    I'm not saying it's something that should be ignored, but I'm not sure a Giuli911 Full Bore Panic is the proper reaction.

  • ||

    "Do you believe cyberwar is a possibility?" At post time, 84 percent of respondents say "Yes." Yikes.

    Dunno what you're yikesing about. Of course some kind of "cyber-war" activity (whatever that means) is a possibility. Maybe not very likely, or not very likely to amount to much, but possible? Sure.

  • ||

    How well do you think it can sell the following items as a new problem to smart people.

    Powers emerging.
    Enemines hiding amoung the innocent.
    A crisis across the world.

    And then they try to sell me that our resonsiblity in no longer just our country but the stars and beyond.

    It's nothing but marketing rehashing something old and sell it as new wrapped in ultimate imperialism. What intelligent guy wouldn't sign up!!

  • ||

    It would seem that the best defense against a cyber war would be not having you important infastructure connected. But then how would the government know everything you're doing.

  • ||

    Meanwhile, the Air Force has been getting rid of skilled 7-level non-commissioned officers and junior company grade commissioned officers as fast as it can (but they'll help you go green!). I guess they need the money they save cutting personnel to spend on moronic advertisement campaigns to reassure the American public that, yes, the Air Force is still around.

  • ||

    re: Jim Bob @ 5:24pm

    Yeah, we're cutting personnel. Been doing it steadily since the late '80s. 'Course, that wasn't mostly our idea. It started with the "Peace Dividend" when the Evil Soviet Union dissolved and there would never be any wars ever again. Yay! So 535 of our best & brightest looked at our military budget and had one big mutual orgasm. Our budgets have been falling ever since and our military leaders have had to make some tough choices between O&M, R&D, Personnel, MILCON, MWR and all the other things that we need to fund. O&M usually wins and Personnel usually loses out. In the 90's, we let our mid-level supervisory personnel get out and learned that wasn't too smart. The last few draw-downs have targeted personnel who were probably going to become civilians below-the-zone anyway.

    As far as the new ads go, this campaign is one of the better I've seen (yeah, I realise that's not saying much.) The AF hardly ever advertised in the past because we've seldom had any problem meeting our recruiting quotas. Admittedly, one of the reasons for the new campaign is what KMW refered to in her first paragraph -- the AF wants the American public to know just how much the AF contributes to the wars in the Middle East and to our national defense in general. The AF has been continually engaged in warfare in the Middle East since the first Gulf War. We completely dominate the high ground and allow our ground forces to operate without fear of attack from above. Our Intel, Surveillance & Reconnaissance give the ground forces the knowledge they need to kick in the right door and capture the correct bad guy. But the troops who get all the newsprint are the Army & Marines (who I'll admit deserve all the credit they get -- they're overwehlmingly the ones in harms way.) Also, the ads cost less then 1/2% of our budget.

  • ||

    Lifer, you speak truth. However, the expunging of junior NCOs and junior CGOs that's been happening as of late has been largely involuntary, from what I've seen in the service. I know that's anecdotal, but some good people I know who wanted to remain in the AF have been forced out, and not because they were dirtbags or slackers.

    The AF's budget, including O&M, has been plundered to feed the Army machine. I find that unfortunate.

    And you're correct: the Army and Marines get most of the press. I think a lot of people conceive of the AF as the cushy desk job service, and while that's true for a lot of people, I'd like to see our Combat Controllers, PJs, TACPs, Security Forces attached to the Army, and Air Force personnel who drive convoys get some recognition for the amazing work they do.

  • GILMORE||

    Lifer:

    Were you in the academy? and if so, what years?

  • GILMORE||

    I'd like to see our Combat Controllers, PJs, TACPs, Security Forces attached to the Army...

    If i'm not mistaken, many already are when it comes to operations. One friend of mine served in Gulf 1 as a Forward Air Controller, and he spent the whole war (couple months) stationed with a bunch of grunts when he wasnt sitting alone in a hole shitting in a plastic bag and calling in targets.

    Or do you mean these kinds of units switch over under Army umbrella? I think the Air Force special operations guys like search & rescue or FAC are best utilized the way they are - independent teams that link up when needed with other units. Their training programs arent something i think Big Green would be able to integrate into their cookie cutter approach & general bureaucracy

  • Geotpf||

    "whiskey | February 26, 2008, 2:25pm | #

    i keep on declaring cyberwar against those blue jerks on team fortress 2 (RED 4 LYFE WHUT) but they keep on respawning :("

    Well, why don't you just CRY SOME MORE!!!!

  • BLUE TEAM||

    suck it, Red!

  • ||

    re: GILMORE @ 7:12pm

    Neg. I'm enlisted.

  • ||

    Also, re-read Jim Bob's 6:45 post -- he finishes that sentense with "...get some recognition for the amazing work they do."

    Obviously, you're aware of our "in lieu of" taskings in which we augment the Army & Marines who are stretched about as thin as they can go. But I'd wager over 95% of civilians have no clue we're in the fight.

  • ||

    The AF's budget, including O&M, has been plundered to feed the Army machine.

    Eh, part of the problem is that the AF (like much of DoD) is too fascinated with new toys. This year's 'wish list' was over twice all of the other services combined. They desperately need to start cost-engineering new planes - not adding features that our adversaries are two generations behind. The B2 is a brilliant example - we just lost almost 5% of our total capability in one crash. The best airframe in the galaxy isn't worth it if you can only afford a handful of them.

  • ||

    GILMORE,

    Apologies for the cumbersome sentence structure. I meant I'd like to see Air Force personnel who are directly involved in combat, such as AFSOC personnel and the Security Forces troops who augment the Army, get more visible recognition for the work they do. Sometimes it bothers me that every person in the military is referred to by the press as a "soldier" or a "Marine."

    The TACP guys are basically Air Force people who spend their careers working with the Army, but nobody ever hears about them. Again, unfortunate.

  • ||

    juris imprudent,

    Good point. The Air Force is involved in the R&D of a wide range of cutting-edge technologies, some of which have little or nothing to do with aviation. They need to trim that fat and focus on O&M and urgent procurement for the foreseeable future. New tankers, anyone? I ask because those 707 airframes look a little wobbly.

    I will admit that I'm a little confused about why they're re-engining the C-5 fleet, though.

  • ||

    I don't mind new engines/avionics/etc. for old planes. But the F22 is a joke - a very expensive joke. Two of them collide like those F15s and you've just dumped $350M or so into the sea.

  • GILMORE||

    Jim Bob | February 26, 2008, 10:59pm | #
    GILMORE,

    >>> Sometimes it bothers me that every person in the military is referred to by the press as a "soldier" or a "Marine."


    I see your point. I agree.

    The air force guys who go through the SERE training, combat controllers, and combat rescue guys are probably the most unrecognized yet most highly trained and effective teams in the military. I think it probably goes back to the older idea alluded to above where most people think of the 'air force' as either desk-riders, nuke babysitters, or fighter jocks. The rest of it generally is ignored

  • ||

    Our ultralights were nearly over Murmansk, our icebreakers poised and ready, when the Russkis open up on us with their EMP guns.

    Falling, falling endlessly from a Siberian sky ...

    Fuck!

    Omaha Thunder is down! Repeat, Omaha Thunder is down ...

    Betrayed! Betrayed from above!

    Remember your training, son.

    We're going to make it to Finland.

    Wintermute, don't do this to me! The toxins, man, the fuckin' toxins ...

    Bossman, he poison you? Got a medkit, ya know.

    (I read it too, Episiarch.)

  • An_Arab||

    Why dont you Imperialists get back onto your supersonic jets and head west, PERMANENTLY?

    GET OFF ARAB SOIL, and off ARAB WATERS! (You might know it as "international waters").

  • ||

    The thing that keeps me up at night is the way the Air Force pisses through money on expensive fighter aircraft like the F-22 when the current conflict proves what's needed is more inexpensive COIN aircraft like the A-10.

    The same goes for cyberspace, you can't throw money at a firewall and expect to be secure, the fact that Microsoft has given the Chinese government access to Microsoft source code should freak out anyone in the U.S. Government when you consider how much of our government and military is intertwined with Microsoft programs.

    http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2003/sep03/09-26gspchpr.mspx

    Not like the Chinese government would tell their military (The PLA) which has established information warfare units to develop viruses to attack enemy computer systems and networks, and computer network offensive into its exercises, primarily in first strikes against enemy computers where the holes are in Microsoft code.

    The Chinese can turn off the lights here whenever they want to, and if you think I'm kidding, there is a whole slew of information on the Chinese and information warfare here. http://www.c4i.org/

  • Maj. T.J. \'King\' Kong||

    An_Arab | February 27, 2008, 2:04am | #

    Why dont you Imperialists get back onto your supersonic jets and head west, PERMANENTLY?

    GET OFF ARAB SOIL, and off ARAB WATERS! (You might know it as "international waters").


    We'd sure love to good buddy.

    but as it ism, you guys are just a total pain i the ass for just about everybody you bump into.

    Aside from the UAE, most Arab countries are a social/economic disaster, and these disasters have produced some particularly-serious assholes that like to do some odd things, like blow up parts of cities, strapping bombs to retards, etc.

    When you fellas get your act together and can stop producing this particular brand of douchebags, we'd be glad to go home and buy the wonderful output from your extensive and diverse economies, and your groundbreaking, innovative cultural works.

    Oh, wait... I mean, just your oil,

    I mean, cause because without that, you've basically got fuck-all going for you. You honestly dont have anybody to blame but yourselves. Oh, and Sykes/Picot... but hell, you've had plenty of time to fix that shit.

  • wizard of oz books||

    With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at RareOzBooks.com.

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