An opportunity for the next Blackwater? Cyber warfare

By: ispeculatornew
Date posted: 09.07.2010 (4:00 am) | Write a Comment  (0 Comments)

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If you have followed news about the US offensive in Iraq, you know about Blackwater, which no longer exists officially. The company was renamed “Xe Services LLC” after its name was greatly tarnished. Blackwater and its personnel was found guilty of many illegal activities in Iraq, as one of the main subcontractors of the US government during the Iraq war. It is basically a private army, that had been hire in Iraq to help out the US army.

Why does the US army need private contractors?

There are of course many reasons to do so. One might be lack of personel but there are other reasons as well. Having a contractor to do the “dirty work” can help the government claim innocence and dissociate itself from anything immoral or illegal that was done. If things turn sour, the private company will end up taking the blame which is exactly what happened in Iraq as the company was even banned by the Iraqi government. Many of the operations that Blackwater became involved in had very particular challenges that made it very convenient to operate through the private contractor. Of course, there are limits over what foreign governments can do to a company like Blackwater given the fact that it is backed by the US government. Seems like the best of both worlds right?

It is a new world

We keep hearing about cyber warfare and how it will change the world. There is no doubt that wars are being fought far differently than a few decades ago. It’s no longer about man power, or at least not as much. Nowadays, it is about technology and information. Increasingly, cyber attacks can do great damage to the opponents, no matter if they are countries or international organizations such as Al Qaeda. Being able to dismantle the electronic capabilities of a country prior to an attack would give a huge advantage.

To give you an idea of how different the current wars are. The post 9/11 conflict (Iraq & Afghanistan) is the 2nd most expensive war of all time for the US with a cost of $784 billions (far away from the 2nd World War at $4.1 trillions). But the conflict is only 7th in terms of men involved in the conflict at 2.1 million.  Wars and conflicts will never be the same as they once were.  At the same time, cyber crime is also becoming a major issue. Barack Obama quoted a cost of $1 trillion

Is it bad luck that Georgia had serious issues with its internet and communication services in the hours prior to the attack from the Russian army? These attacks are believed to originate from the Kremlin but it’s not clear because it remains very difficult to make such a case.

To a certain degree, this is not a story about the future but rather about the present. Countries like China and Russia have already been connected to a great number of attacks, spying and other such crimes. They have been able to steal secrets both from corporations and from governments in order to obtain classified information for either commercial or military purposes. Also, criminal organizations are gaining knowledge and operational capabilities to deliver attacks, steal and create mayhem in what could be comparable ways to 9/11. Just imagine someone taking control remotely of a nuclear building in the United States. It may seem like a story from Hollywood a lot more than reality but I don’t think anyone wants to find out how truly serious these threats are.

What is needed?

I think there is a great opportunity for a company to become a private contractor for the US government’s cyber warfare unit. There would be many different tasks but here is what I see as the main ones:

Spying: Doing the same activities to our enemies to gain knowledge about who they are, their capabilities, objectives, etc. This is critical to our security but is certainly an activity that the US government would not want to be associated with. “Cyber-espionage is the biggest intelligence disaster since the loss of the nuclear secrets” said Jim Lewis of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Cyber attacks: Being able to dismantle groups that are preparing to attack us is critical. But it can also be tricky. The US government would not want to be directly associated with an attack on a private group in Russia for example as that could be seen as an attack on Russia itself.

Investigation: When a private company like Google complains about cyber terrorism, it is very tricky for the US government to dig too much into those activities. But having a private group

Why I want to find the next “cyber Blackwater”

Private contractors such as Blackwater have very special relationships with the government as you can imagine. They are allies in crime. Because of that, companies like Blackwater often do not have any competition when they are bidding on federal contracts and are usually paid high amounts to compensate for the risks taken by the executives and workers at those companies. That creates very interesting possibilities for the companies that can become the next Blackwater. Trying to find the right one is the big challenge as these companies will obviously not advertise themselves for what they do. They would instead simply be Government Contractors

I will be on the lookout for the companies that could fit this profile, I’d also be very interested to hear any opinions or ideas as well!

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