Cohen: Superpower status has a downside

Cyberwarfare and other security threats simply come with the territory when your country is the world's only remaining 'superpower,' Defense Secretary William Cohen told a group of veterans last week.

Cyberwarfare and other security threats simply come with the territory when

your country is the world's only remaining "superpower," Defense Secretary

William Cohen told a group of veterans last week.

"We're looking at what I call a "superpower paradox,'" Cohen said at

an Aug. 21 speech to the National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign

Wars and the Ladies Auxiliary. "There is no other country that can challenge

us directly. So they look for indirect ways to challenge us.... That can

come in the form of chemical or biological or even cyber [warfare]."

Cohen said it is imperative for the United States to study what it means

to be a superpower in the Information Age. "We know that other countries

are forming cells of professionals dedicated to finding ways to interrupt

our [information] infrastructure," Cohen said.

"If you can shut down our financial system, if you could shut down our

transportation system, if you could cause the collapse of our energy production

and distribution system just by typing on a computer and causing those links

to this globalization to break down, then you're able to wage successful

warfare, and we have to be able to defend against that," he said. "We're

taking these measures."

However, not everyone in the national security community agrees on the

nature of the threats in cyberspace or on what steps should be taken to

defend against those threats.

"There is a gap between that to be defended and that which can be defended,"

said Corey Schou, chairman of the National Colloquium on Information Systems

Security Education and associate dean of information systems at Idaho State

University, speaking at a recent summit on cybersecurity at Carnegie Mellon

University, Pittsburgh. "Not everybody agrees that there's a problem."

Likewise, Richard Clarke, national coordinator for security, infrastructure

protection and counterterrorism at the National Security Council, said in

June that though it would be a "tough call" to tell the difference between

an attack by hackers and one launched by terrorists intent on disrupting

national security, the administration's cyberdefense programs are battling

a perception problem that stems from the misuse of the word terrorism.

"Maybe we shouldn't be saying "cyber-terrorism.' Maybe we should be

saying "information warfare,'" Clarke said.

NEXT STORY: Army fine-tunes missile defense C3

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