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Archive for May 2009

Cyber Warfare: The Gray Zone Narrows

I found this article to be very interesting and poignant. I also happen to agree with U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), U.S. Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton and Austin Bay.


Cyber Warfare: The Gray Zone Narrows

by Austin Bay
May 19, 2009

The gray zone separating “cyber attacks” by hackers on computer and communications networks from war waged with bayonet, bomb or missile attacks is narrowing, and narrowing dramatically.

Last week, the head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), U.S. Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, noted that American leaders cannot rule out using “real world” military force (e.g., air strikes and ground attacks) against an enemy who attacks and disrupts critical cyber networks.

On May 8, The Stars and Stripes quoted Chilton as saying, “I don’t think you take anything off the table when you provide options” to senior civilian leaders following an attack on the United States — including cyber attacks on America.

Chilton is addressing, quite publicly and emphatically, an increasingly difficult security threat. Cyberspace is, to paraphrase a recent statement by another senior U.S. military officer, “a contested environment.” “Contested environment” is Pentagonese for “there’s a fight going on there, and we’re in it.”

A column I wrote in January 2008 sketches the thorny issue: “Attack a nation’s highways and railroads, and you’ve attacked transportation infrastructure. You’ve also committed an obvious, recognized act of war. An electronic attack doesn’t leave craters or bleeding human casualties — at least, not in the same overt sense of an assault with artillery and bombs. However, the economic costs can be much larger than a classic barrage or bombing campaign.”

Historians can make the argument that “hacking” as warfare isn’t new. When World War I erupted, British sailors “hacked” German undersea cables in order to intercept or cut German international cable communications traffic. This gave the British an intelligence edge and the ability to deny Germany a communications asset. Likewise, eavesdropping on military radio communications and jamming radio was standard operating procedure in World War II.

In the digital age, more than military and diplomatic communications are at risk. Today, nations depend on networked computers for civilian as well as military communications, for personal and governmental economic transactions, for information storage and retrieval, and command and control of transportation and energy infrastructure. This exponentially increased reliance means that in the 21st century a nation’s “cyber” infrastructure is a very attractive target. Intelligence agencies know this. So do banks, brokerage houses, freight shippers and power companies.

Electric utilities are concerned about “hacker attacks” on their computer systems. Computers guide America’s electrical grids — they monitor and control circuits.

Inducing an electrical blackout on a national scale is an offensive “three-fer”: 1) an attack on key infrastructure; 2) an economic assault (damaging commerce); and 3) a psychological attack seeding hysteria and perhaps producing political panic.

Other scenarios worry defense planners. Commercial air service can be hampered or halted by attacking air traffic control system computers. Trucking can be crippled by attacking the computers controlling fuel supplies (refineries, pipelines, storage sites and distribution systems).

Space satellites and their computer-controlled ground stations offer another target. An attacker who interferes with ground-to-satellite communications could conceivably disrupt Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation, deny satellite weather data, “blind” spy satellites, and cut some phone and television networks.

Uncertainty of the “origin of the attack” makes cyber attacks attractive. In cyberspace, the difference between a criminal act and an act of war is often a matter of interpretation as well as degree.

But U.S. defense officials are becoming increasingly vocal about “probes” and “intrusions” traceable to nation-states. Last month, The Wall Street Journal quoted a “senior intelligence official” as saying: “The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid. So have the Russians.” The article noted that cyber “intruders” had not (as yet) attempted to damage the grid but “could try during a crisis or war.”

Cyberspace is complex. While specific computers and control systems are vulnerable to attack, several cyber warriors make the case that knocking out the entire Internet and simultaneously disrupting “hardened” U.S. military communications is a difficult if not impossible task. “Anti-intrusion” and “anti-virus” defenses for computers are also improving.

Chilton’s statement, however, serves as diplomatic notice that “classical deterrence” — assured counter-attack with the full range of U.S. military and police power — is now an element of American “cyber defense.”

Written by David Frederick

May 20, 2009 at 10:01 PM

Posted in AeroSpace, Defence, Politics

Punctuated Equilibrium Theory Applied To Business


I have been thinking a lot lately about PET – Punctuated Equilibrium Theory. More specifically how it applies to business, economics, organization theory and structure, etc. PET original came out of biology and anthropology in theorizing types of biological and anthropological evolution phases. However, in my case and recent thinking, it is more focused on business and organizational theory.

Thus, punctuated equilibrium theory/model of organizational transformation emerged as a prominent theoretical framework for explaining fundamental changes in patterns of organizational activity (e.g. Gersick, 1991, Miller & Friesen, 1980, 1994; Tushman & Romanelli 1985). As described by is proponents, punctuated equilibrium theory depicts organizations as evolving through relatively long periods of stability (equilibrium periods) in their basic patterns of activity that are punctuated by relatively short bursts of fundamental change (revolutionary periods).

Revolutionary periods substantively disrupt established activity patterns and install the basis for new equilibrium periods. Gersik (1991) described the largely independent emergence of punctuated equilibrium models over a number of social and physical science disciplines, including biology (e.g Gould, 1989, sociology (Kuhn, 1970), and psychology (Levinson, 1986), and at several levels of analysis in organization theory, (Gersick, 1991).

Why is this interesting? Well, if you apply PET to the last 25 years you can see some very interesting activity and result patterns. When looking at where we are today through the proverbial PET view, we can also see a very interesting period in our society, business, economics, etc. Specifically in how business operate, consumers behave, employee’s and organizations behave, industry expand and contract, etc.

The key points of Punctuated Equilibrium Theory in my thinking are these:

• Companies cycle through stable and dynamic environments. Those that are solidly run, managed and organized thrive in dynamic environments, those that aren’t, fail and flail.
• Today’s dynamic multi-dimensional global organizations contribute to a level of equilibrium if the company is poised and organized to handle environmental change.

Clearly, today, we are in an environment of rapid change, uncertainty, etc. – Revolutionary Period. What’s so interesting about that? Well, several things. One, its interesting in that those companies that were complacent in their operations, organization, etc. are now dying or gone i.e. GM, Chrysler, Bear Sterns, etc. Those that were innovative, multi-dimensional and able to respond versus react to a shift in the environment are successful i.e. Apple, Wal Mart, etc.

Two, its interesting from a sociological sense. Specifically, how people purchase. Again, the paradigm has shifted to rapid and radical changes in our world, marketplace, etc.. How consumers behave in that shift and understanding that behavior can be very important to the success of an organization. Finally, as far as a theory goes, it seems to shed light on some interest trends in a variety of analytical segments that are extremely relevant in today’s world and economy. If the theory is correct, this revolutionary period will ultimately be followed by a periord of equilibrium. The big question is, are the intervals between equilibrium and revolutionary periods getting shorter due to technology and the speed in which our world operates? And, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Understanding this theory and applying it as I have in high level outlined can reap some strong, useful and important actionable benefits. it can also tell us a lot about ourselve and our organizations. I am still thinking through it, but I am intrigued. I would like to get your thoughts.

What do you think?


Written by David Frederick

May 19, 2009 at 9:48 PM