That the United States is amassing its cyber munitions store should not come as a surprise. The recent disclosures of the documents leaked by the now fugitive Edward Snowden disclose how much it is. From reports by The Guardian and the New York Times, it has been revealed that the NSA (National Security Agency) and its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), have been engaged in the long-running and wide range of efforts to beat the encryption that is used widely on the Web, which includes VPN technologies, SSL and the new protections that are used in the 4G Smartphones.
This revelation comes after the release of a stack of information which was contained in documents that were recently leaked to The Washington Post. This gives a glance at the length United States has gone to embrace the offensive cyber actions, something that the security analysts say will likely go on as other countries continually build their own cyber arsenal. Leo Versola, technology vice president at AhnLab, said that the best way he could explain this situation was to paraphrase the saying “the best defense is goof offense”, which has been reverberating throughout the history. He added that defense has at all times been hard to implement successfully due to obvious reasons.
Versola however said that this cyber offensive activity by the United States did not really mean that the country would change the approach towards other countries that are suspected of the same operations. He added that warfare was now shifting from the physical battlefield to the virtual ones and the engagement rules were developing. According the leaked documents, in 2011, intelligent services of the United States conducted 231 offensive cyber operations. In addition, under a project code-named GENIE worth $652 million, the United States cyber specialists have broken into the computer networks of foreign nations and planted malware named “implants” on thousands of machines each year.
By the end of 2013, the project is expected to control at least 85,000 machines all over the world, which is approximately four times the number that was available in the 2008, according to the budget of the United States intelligence. Most of the implants are designed by the NSA, although $25.1 million was reserved this year for the secret purchase of software vulnerabilities.
Director of research at Solutionary’s Security Engineering Research Team (SERT), Rob Kraus, said that the offensive operations will keep on playing a key part of the strategy of the government in the future. He added that the disarmament of a country by use of cyber security can be very effective and powerful and without even the need of having boots on the ground. One of the most famous and reputable instances of the United States offensive abilities is the Stuxnet virus that was designed to target Iran in a part of the intelligence operation code named “Olympic Games”. In spite of the New York Times unmasking the operation in 2012, the government has never fully acknowledged it. The creation of Stuxnet has been credited to Israel and the United States.