Disaster Zone

Cyber War: Mutually Assured Disruption (MAD)

Cold War vets will remember the MAD concept that kept us alive.

by Eric Holdeman / February 7, 2013

Back during the Cold War there was the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD)  The idea being that there were so many nuclear warheads that both countries, the USSR and the United States would be "nuked back to the stone age" if one country or the other tried a preemptive strike.  


Today there is another "war" that is ongoing and it is being fought in the Cyber Universe.  I equate it to "submarine warfare" where the waters above seem calm, but beneath the surface there is a life or death struggle going on.


Be assured that all the major nations in the world are developing not only cyber defenses, but also offensive cyber attack capabilities.  What we read and hear about in the news are the incursions into government and business organizations data archives.  Businesses can't hide it when there is a denial of service attack or as the New York Times recently reported, major attempts to break into their databases by Chinese interests.  In this case probably looking for information on who "ratted out" ruling party officials and their accumulation of wealth.  


Perhaps today or in the near future the only thing keeping nations from a major cyber attack on the United States will again be the MAD concept, but in this case it is Mutually Assured Disruptions.  These would be cyber offensive measures that take out critical infrastructures, and in the worst case, causing equipment failures and destruction of operating systems that would put us in a world of hurt, especially for our electrical grid.  


It used to be that countries would detonate a nuclear weapon to show what they had the potential to do great harm.  Or, a nation could conduct an intercontinental missile test (North Korea is using this tactic now).  I'm wondering how we as a nation might demonstrate our cyber warfare offensive capabilities?  


In conventional terms instead of an all-out invasion you could conduct a raid.  Might we demonstrate our capabilities with a "cyber raid" on some portion of a nation's capabilities?  The only thing that kept the peace and prevented all out nuclear confrontation and war was MAD.  I'm not so sure people have the same respect for MAD that only includes Disruption.