Second in a series of posts from Aspen Institute Security Forum, the inaugural—and so far excellent—security and counter-terrorism conference at the Aspen Institute, directed by my friend and colleague Clark Ervin, the former Inspector General of DHS.
The headline on yesterday’s Wall Street Journal read “Iran Arms Syria with Radar [sic]”. My orthographic quibbles about the proper spelling of RADAR notwithstanding, the article quotes officials who say the new RADAR could pose a security threat to Israel. No doubt it could. The point of the article is that this level of military and technology “cooperation” constitutes a serious security threat. No doubt it does.
Wall Street Journal, from Getty Images
One fact missing from the story was that the Syrians had already spent huge amounts on their air defenses—billions, by some estimates1. And as the former US top cybersecurity official, Richard Clarke, points out in his new book, Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It, those investments had failed spectacularly. Clarke those reiterated last night at the Aspen Institute Security Forum that the challenge of cybersecurity lies in the manner in which it levels the playing field in such unexpected ways. In the case of the briefly infamous 2008 Israeli air raid on the North Korean-designed (and operated?) Syrian nuclear facility, the Syrian RADAR systems appear to have been shut down before a single Israeli shot was fired: someone (the Israelis, we presume) hacked the Syrian RADAR networks caused them either not to detect the F-15s and F-16s overhead, or not to display them. (Neither of those aircraft is stealthy; there is no question the RADARs could have detected them.) Perhaps the first public acknowledgment of cyberwar in a modern military action followed, as first publicly reported by David A. Fulghum, Robert Wall and Amy Butler (“Israel Shows Electronic Prowess,” in Aviation Week).
So one wonders about this WSJ story: why are the Syrians buying new RADAR equipment instead of new firewalls and routers? Well, perhaps they are….
- Clarke, Richard A. and Robert K. Knake, Cyber War, Harper Collins, 2010 [↩]