Information Warfare and Security

reviewed by Bob Bruen

by Dorothy Denning. Addison-Wesley. 1999.
522 pages. Bibliography, endnotes and index. Paper $34.95.
ISBN 0-201-43303-6. LoC U163.D46.

Professor Denning's latest contribution to world of security and privacy is the best resource book on information warfare available. While is difficult to say that any book is exhaustive on such a topic, the work is extensive. The amount of research and preparation shows through in this well organized book. She has brought much more than the usual hacker stories with a successful attempt to offer a theoretical basis for information warfare.

The three main divisions are the Introduction, Offensive Information Warfare and Defensive Information Warfare. The introduction is only three chapters starting with the Gulf War, but they give us insights and background for the remainder of the book, which starts with the Gulf War. The theoretical approach for many readers places such a book in the academic environment, but it also gives credibility to an idea that often sounds like Hollywood's idea of the Y2K problem. From the media accounts of 16 year old hackers to serious wartime decoding of enemy battle plans may seem to be a bit of a stretch until one associates the underlying foundations of manipulating the bits with each activity. The difference is only that of extent, not a difference in kind. One analogy would be the difference between a child accidently killing someone while playing with a handgun and soldiers shooting each other on a battlefield. Electrons have been added to the arsenal available to everyone. We need to better understand the impact on humanity because it is sizable.

The intrusiveness of the new use of electrons appears in pranks, crime international relations, warfare, finance and the telephones, just to name a few areas. Underneath it all, the effects are felt in anything related to information/knowledge: its creation, storage, modification and communication. This goes the heart of much of the social interaction of people. You do not need to be the head of an army to require important information. A medical emergency makes a phone number a life and death bit of information for the those involved.

The net continues to expand daily and will most likely continue to expand until every inch of the planet and nearby planets will be reachable. More and more people are gaining access. These people are not the techies of the 70s and 80s. They are pretty much part of the general population who bring with them all the things that the general population thinks about, except now they have a very powerful means of communicating that was not available. The growth of hackers and crackers is one sign of this, but the use of electrons in physical warfare is another, as is the growth of the surveillance society. Everyone got a video camera in the 90s, now everyone will get a PC with a net connection for the new millennium.

The section on offensive information warfare presents the important are of perception management as practiced by the military in war, the media in business and the government in political activities. Perception management takes on a new level of importance in our times because of the new availability of hard to understand technical information and the extensive quantity of this and other information. Those who do not or can not deal with large volumes of information will be subject to misinformation at the click of a mouse. We have already seen its early stages with president's impeachment trial. The problem will only increase in severity over time.

In a far reaching sweep of the issues, topics covered include technical information from traffic analysis and cryptography to national security and politics. Another example, identity theft, is something each of us ought to take seriously along with anonymity.

A widespread reading of Information Warfare and Security followed by broad based discussions would be helpful to all of us. We should think about the need to educate as many of our fellow citizens as possible before control is lost due to ignorance. The book is organized such that it can be used as a textbook for a college course, a reference book or one that is just good reading. Highly recommended.