Cyber War or Propaganda War?

by edwardmroche

On December 15th, 2015, the Republican party held its last debate of the year.  It is near Christmas, followed by New Years, and this is a time of year when people do not pay much attention to politics.  So the candidate heading into this season with the highest poll numbers is more than likely to win at least the first few primary votes.

The United States has a complicated electoral system for electing its President.  There is nothing else like it in the world.  Each party must hold “primary” elections in each individual state.  In those primaries, delegates go to a meeting and vote on the candidate they want to represent them in the general election.  Republicans have one primary, Democrats have another.  It is an intensely local process. Then these delegates from each state go to a national convention and then vote again and confirm the nominee of their party, and then there are two candidates for the national “general” election.

During the debate, several issues regarding cyber warfare came up.

Chris Christie, Governor of the State of New Jersey

Chris Christie was asked about what should be the response of the United States to state-sponsored hacking from the People’s Republic of China.  His answer was that the United States should launch a counter-attack.  This sounds logical, tit for tat.  But what is interesting is the type of attack he suggested.

He suggested that information should be taken that shows the corruption of Chinese officials.  “The Chinese people need to be shown just what a corrupt government they have.  How the government leaders and a series of industry leaders all over the country are stealing from the Chinese people.”

There is no verification that Chinese leaders are stealing.  Whether they are is not the point here.  The interesting thing about Christie’s idea is that state-sponsored hacking can be used to collect embarrassing information about a foreign government, then the information can be leaked to the international press and used to discredit the government, leading to possible civic unrest.

This may be the first this type of cyber war strategy ever has been suggested by a political leader in the United States, potentially anywhere. It is the opposite of a kinetic strike.

Is secretly releasing information regarding the criminal activities of a foreign leader a type of cyber war, even if the information is true, but if the information has been stolen through hacking.

Donald Trump, Entrepreneur

During the debate, Donald Trump was criticized for “wanting to shut down the Internet” in response to the growth ISIS.  His response was that he never suggested shutting down the Internet, but that “ISIS is using the Internet better than we are”.  He also stated that it would be a good idea to shut down the Internet in places where ISIS is originating its hateful propaganda and recruitment efforts.

Then he said that it might be even better if the Inter were used to penetrate ISIS and find out about them “so that they can be destroyed”.

Both of these candidates offer interesting views of cyber space and how it is part of war.  Indeed, cyber weapons are on the menu for everyone.