Our world is the host to numerous physical acts of aggression every day, and until a few years ago those acts have remained in the (relatively) easily comprehensible physical world. However, the millions of connected servers and clients that overlay the numerous nations around the world have rapidly become host to what is known as “cyber warfare,” which amounts to subversion and attacks against another people or nation through electronic means– by attacking its people or its electronic and Internet-based infrastructure.
While physical acts of aggression are easier to examine (and gather evidence) and attribute to the responsible parties, attacks on the Internet are generally the exact opposite. Thanks to the anonymity of the Internet, it is much more difficult to determine the originator of the attack. Further, the ethical debate of whether physical actions in the form of military action is appropriate in response to online attacks comes into question.
It seems as though the Pentagon is seeking the answers to the issues of attack attribution and appropriate retaliation methods through the usage of an Internet simulator dubbed the National Cyber Range. According to Computer World, two designs for the simulator are being constructed by Lockheed Martin with a $30.8 million USD grant and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory with a $24.7 million USD grant provided by DARPA.
The National Cyber Range is to be designed to mimic human behavior in response to various DefCon and InfoCon (Informational Operations Condition) levels. It will allow the Pentagon and authorized parties to study the effectiveness of war plan execution as it simulates offensive and defensive actions on the scale of nation-backed levels of cyber warfare. Once the final National Cyber Range design has been chosen by DARPA from the two competing projects (by Johns Hopkins and Lockheed Martin), the government would be able to construct a toolkit that would allow them to easily transfer and conduct cyber warfare testing from any facility.
Image cortesy Kurtis Scaletta via Flickr Creative Commons.