Just outside the small town of Rheinbach, the German army has begun preparations for a new kind of war. Following on the heels of attacks against the Internet infrastructure of Estonia, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, as well as a large scale hacking attack by China against a number of European countries, the German army, or Bundeswehr, has established its first unit dedicated solely to cyber war. According to a new article in Der Spiegel, the unit is still considered secret, and will work on both defensive and offensive operations.
But a technologically advanced nation developing a unit for cyber war is not itself unique. Rather, the fact that even Germany plans on developing these capabilities signals that the age of cyber war has finally arrived.
"Other than Britian and France, European countries have not been very out front about their war-making capabilities," said Martin Libicki, author of Conquest in Cyberspace and a senior policy research at the Rand Corporation. "Since Germany is very careful about these things, the fact that they actually announced that they're doing it may mean it's not as everyday as it seems."
Instead, the creation of the secret unit signals that Germany will join the larger shift by many militaries towards acknowledging the importance of cyber war. According to Scott Borg, Director and Chief Economist of the US Cyber Consequences Unit, a non-profit founded by the US government that now independently consults with the government and businesses, about a dozen countries have developed cyber war capabilities.
With the Russian cyber attack that took out Estonia's banking, government ministries and Internet for several days in 2007, the wired world joined the land, sea and air as a standard battlefield in modern war. After the 2007 Estonia incident, Russians launched cyber attacks against Georgia during their 2008 war, and then took down the Internet of Kyrgyzstan on January 18th of this year. Since 2007, cyber attacks have been used in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, between Indian and Pakistan, and between China and Taiwan and Japan.
Der Speigel said that the Bundeswehr unit, lead by Brigadier General Friedrich Wilhelm Kriesel, consists of 79 computer scientists recruited from the Bundeswehr's universities and training centers.
And while the unit won't become fully operational until next year, Germany has a long history of cyber war. According to James Lewis, Director and Senior Fellow, Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the first case of cyber war in history occurred when the KGB hired German hackers to break into the US Department of Defense (DoD) computer system.
The impetus for creating this unit came from a spate of recent cyber attacks against Germany. In 2007, attempts by Chinese hackers to conduct industrial espionage against Germany became so bad that during a state visit to Germany, German chancellor Angela Merkel publicly asked Chinese officials to stop. Additionally, Germany has engaged in some spats over gas pipelines with Russia, a country that has launched cyber attacks every year since 2007.
"Russia has demonstrated the willingness to use cyber space, and I'm sure Germany is concerned about Russia's use of cyber force as a negotiating tactic," said O. Sami Saydjari, chairman of the Professionals for Cyber Defense.
Of course, the creation of this new German unit isn't the only sign that countries are paying more attention to the Internet battlefield. Just last month, the DoD published its Quadrennial Roles and Missions Report. The Report, which the DoD uses to help Congress formulate the military budget for the coming years, highlighted four areas of particular importance. Three of the areas were the obvious choices of counter-insurgency, unmanned aerial vehicles and supply. The forth area was cyber war. Looks like Germany might not be the only country increasing its focus on fighting this popular new kind of war.
Hey that's great. America has its NSA that really doesn't exist on acres of Computer Farms in Virginia. So the German Army is developing a Cyber Attack/Defense Unit.
"What do these Cyber-Soldiers do in Basic Training?" Well the learn BASIC, then FORTRAN, and C+. "How to you condition your Cyber-soldiers for Battle against other hostile Cyber Armies?" Well they learn to jump over and crawl under Firewalls on the obstacle course.
"And what do Cyber-Soldiers Eat? Oh they get a little Byte here and a little byte there, when ever they find time. In the field they will undoubtedly be given C+ Rations."
"Who leads these cyber-soldiers into battle?" Cyber-Sargent s. of course. Does America need to worry about the German Cyber-Army?" Well if they are half as good as America's non-existent Cyber Spook Troops, then they already have your Mothers phone number and address. "Does the German Government allow GAYs oops I mean the Gender Preference Challenged into it's Cyber Army? Well not like America's "Don't Ask, Don't tell" policy, lets just say our motto is "Never leave your buddies behind." "So it's safe to say your troops are a tightly networked group of fighting geeks ready to take on the world?" We like to think of them more as Data Stream Information Pimps. "OH"
One last question, "What kind of equipment will these troops use in the up-coming cyber wars?" Well they'll all be issued screwdrivers, multimeters, and will wear Hack-Jackets. To steady themselves before entering combat each platoon will join hands, and they'll all chant OHMmmmmmm,,,,,Ohmmmmm. " Thank You Herr General"
Don't any of you guys watch 24? The bad guys hack the USA's firewall and start killing people. How about Live Free of Die Hard. Albeit both of these scenarios target civilians. It seems to me that I read about the Chinese Army's cyber warfare unit when Clinton was President. I would be very surprised if Germany just started working on Cyber warfare. Which begs the question, what does this announcement really represent?
If it is a secret effort, it is best kept that way.
The declaration at best is a sign of weakness as much as asking Chinese officials to stop their hackers.
It only shows that they are succumbing to the pressure of hacking - perhaps they are!