The Washington Post reported that a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program aims to test unmanned cyberattacks that strike without human beings at the keyboard.
There is reason for concern that foreign-aimed cyberattacks are backfiring on Americans by creating new vectors for cybercriminals and by breaching privacy.
The recently uncovered attacks involved â€œtechniques that could have been used against us just as effectively,â€ said Dave Aitel, president of cybersecurity firm Immunity Inc. and a former National Security Agency computer scientist.
Microsoft suffered some collateral damage from Flame. The designers of the virus exploited a previously unknown flaw in the companyâ€™s digital certificates to disguise malicious code as a Microsoft product. The software firm subsequently issued an update to block other hackers from abusing the fraudulent certificates.
Gen. John P. Casciano, a former Air Force director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
Americans, however, have more to fear from adversaries and cybercrooks than from the feds, he said. â€œIâ€™m not terribly concerned about the U.S. government spying on us,â€ said Casciano, now a private consultant.
Casciano said he trusts the current legal framework
Civil liberties activists have argued otherwise, based on their longstanding criticism of FISA for sweeping up innocent Americansâ€™ calls, emails and text messages.
One unintended consequence of cyberweaponry could be the accidental disruption of a civilian hospital system overseas, for instance. International cyberspying, he said, could inadvertently encroach on the human rights of foreigners and Americans abroad.
The Postâ€™s Ellen Nakashima in late May wrote that a DARPA initiative, dubbed Plan X, aims â€œto develop systems that could give commanders the ability to carry out speed-of-light attacks and counterattacks using preplanned scenarios that do not involve human operators manually typing in code — a process considered much too slow.â€