attack -- which, Sanger reports, the government nicknamed "Olympic Games" -- is
probably the most significant covert manipulation of the electromagnetic spectrum
since World War II, when cryptanalysts broke the Enigma cipher that allowed
access to Nazi codes. Many
historians believe that the U.S./U.K. code-breaking efforts shortened that war
by several years, helped stop the Japanese at Midway, facilitated the death of
Admiral Tojo, and immeasurably helped the Soviets hold out in Stalingrad.
Games seems to have set back the Iranian nuclear program by several years. The
U.S.-Israeli intelligence cooperative that collaborated on the cyber weapon may
one day be credited with preventing a wider war in the Middle East. Most
notably, the United States and Israel delayed Iran's nuclear development
without resorting to the use of nuclear weapons. There may be no better
contemporary example of how covert action and intelligence can provide policymakers
with their most precious resource: more time.
that the secret is out, the calculus changes. Sanger and his sources have been
flayed by some critics for betraying a precious national security equity. The
coding for Olympic Games became public (albeit with its code-writers unknown) a
few years ago, when it was leaked to the outside world under the name Stuxnet. Most
analysts fingered the U.S. and Israel, with different theories as to who had
taken the lead. The governments of China and Russia, two major investors in
cyber weapons, probably based their own calculations on the idea that the U.S. authored
is a difference between assuming something and knowing it. Privately, U.S.
officials insist that China has been aggressively attacking U.S. systems for
years. But China's penetrations have been almost all passive -- whatever bots
the Chinese are able to plant inside American computer networks seem to be just
sitting there, collecting data (maybe) or waiting until they are given a signal
to do whatever they are supposed to do. In short, China is gathering
intelligence, not waging warfare. Although it is extremely difficult to create
analogies between the cyber domain and the world of bombs and bullets, there is
a self-evident line between a computer program that sits and does nothing and
one that actively disrupts another country's strategic assets.
attempts to draw boundaries around the global cyber commons may become next to
impossible. That is not to say that there won't be cooperation. There are more
than a dozen international organizations that already, in a way, regulate,
parts of the Internet. Countries actively cooperate on cyber crime -- even the
U.S. and China quietly partner to deter copyright violators.
the standpoint of each country's political economy, there is little incentive
to participate in treaties that constrain action if the prime mover of those
treaties may already have violated the sovereignty of another country. (International
laws, both formal and customarily, obviously allow a country to protect itself
using its military, but there is a real argument about whether it allows