The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

The Pen­tagon is more suc­cess­ful in us­ing de­cep­tion op­er­a­tions against closed so­ci­eties but is care­ful to avoid “blow­back” dis­in­for­ma­tion that reaches U.S. so­ci­ety, a Pen­tagon of­fi­cial said on on Sept. 14.

“Yes, we do de­cep­tion,” said Jack Schaffner, an of­fi­cial within the of­fice of the un­der­sec­re­tary of de­fense for in­tel­li­gence.

De­cep­tion op­er­a­tions seek to in­flu­ence the ac­tions of for­eign states or lead­ers and are more suc­cess­ful in closed so­ci­eties like China, Iran, Syria and Egypt where in­for­ma­tion is tightly con­trolled by the state in an ef­fort to con­trol pop­u­la­tions, he said.

No specifics of cur­rent de­cep­tion op­er­a­tions were re­vealed, but pub­lic dis­cus­sion of what Mr. Schaffner termed “the art of de­cep­tion” is very un­usual.

One past de­cep­tion was the 1967 op­er­a­tion in Viet­nam us­ing F-4 jets dis­guised as F-105s to lure Viet­namese MiG-21s into com­bat.

In open so­ci­eties like the United States and Europe, de­cep­tion op­er­a­tions are more eas­ily dis­cov­ered by jour­nal­ists and re­searchers us­ing the free flow of in­for­ma­tion, es­pe­cially on the In­ter­net, Mr. Schaffner said dur­ing a cy­ber­se­cu­rity con­fer­ence.

Po­lice states are more dif­fi­cult places to set up de­cep­tion pro­grams but gen­er­ally pro­vide an eas­ier environment for de­cep­tion to suc­ceed.

“They’ve caused the pop­u­la­tion to ex­pect in­for­ma­tion to be pre­sented in a cer­tain way, cer­tain for­mats, that cer­tain words be used, cer­tain types of pre­sen­ta­tions . . . and so it’s very easy to fol­low along with that,” he said.

If an op­er­a­tion can be set up, “then . . . the po­lice state that is try­ing to pro­tect it­self is ac­tu­ally set­ting up many of its peo­ple to be de­ceived by you,” Mr. Schaffner said.

In cy­berspace, Mr. Schaffner said, net­works can be de­fended bet­ter us­ing de­cep­tion. He re­called meet­ing a group of 30 com­puter hack­ers who re­vealed about 20 types of online re­sponses from tar­geted web­sites that would prompt them to “sim­ply just turn around and go away” be­cause the sys­tem would not re­spond.

He im­plied that by de­cep­tively us­ing such signs on net­works, de­fend­ers can dis­suade hack­ers from at­tacks.

An­other de­cep­tion spe­cial­ist, Neil Rowe, a pro­fes­sor at the Naval Post­grad­u­ate School, told the con­fer­ence that false-er­ror mes­sages can be pro­grammed on com­put­ers to pop up in re­sponse to out­side in­trud­ers as a way de­cep­tion can en­hance net­work de­fenses. An­other way is to “wrap” soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tions in se­cu­rity soft­ware so that tar­geted com­put­ers slow down when an out­sider gets in­side or im­prop­erly tries to ac­cess a net­work through it.

Asked about blow­back, or the un­in­tended re­play­ing of de­cep­tion to publics in the United States, Mr. Schaffner said con­cerns about the po­ten­tial prob­lem re­quire care and pre­ci­sion to avoid harm­ing free- in­for­ma­tion en­vi­ron­ments.

“Ab­so­lutely, ev­ery­one lies,” Mr. Schaffner said. “So get­ting peo­ple to try to de­ceive other peo­ple is not par­tic­u­larly hard.”

How­ever, do­ing it in a way that does not harm non-tar­geted pop­u­la­tions re­quires nu­ance and trained peo­ple, he said.

“If we’re go­ing to per­form a de­cep­tion where data can go al­most any­where, we have to be very care­ful not to harm that environment that is a cen­tral trea­sure of ours,” Mr. Schaffner said, not­ing that blow­back must be pre­vented at all costs.

Pres­i­dent Obama on Sept. 12 is­sued a di­rec­tive to the mil­i­tary’s com­mand struc­ture mak­ing sev­eral changes, one of which is shift­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for mil­i­tary de­cep­tion from the U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand to the Pen­tagon’s Joint Staff.


Gen. Keith B. Alexan­der, U.S. Cy­ber Com­mand chief, is con­cerned about spam emails sent by hack­ers dis­guised as trusted sen­ders.

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