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Air Force manual describes shadowy cyberwar world

Published: October 25, 2010
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Source: Washington Post

DENVER -- A new Air Force manual for cyberwarfare describes a shadowy, fast-changing world where anonymous enemies can carry out devastating attacks in seconds and where conventional ideas about time and space don't apply.

Much of the 62-page manual is a dry compendium of definitions, acronyms and explanations of who reports to whom. But it occasionally veers into scenarios that sound more like computer games than flesh-and-blood warfare.

Enemies can cloak their identities and hide their attacks amid the cascade of data flowing across international computer networks, it warns.

Relentless attackers are trying to hack into home and office networks in the U.S. "millions of times a day, 24/7."

And operating in cyberspace "may require abandoning common assumptions concerning time and space" because attacks can come from anywhere and take only seconds, the manual says.

The manual - officially, "Cyberspace Operations: Air Force Doctrine Document 3-12" - is dated July 15 but wasn't made public until this month. It is unclassified and available on the Internet.

It dwells mostly on protecting U.S. military computer networks and makes little mention of attacking others. That could signal the Pentagon wants to keep its offensive plans secret, or that its chief goal is fending off cyberattacks to keep its networks up and running, analysts said.

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