Plan to cripple African country’s air defence system was aborted over concerns of similar attacks by China, Russia
The Obama administration considered using cyberoffensive to cripple the Qaddafi government’s air-defence system, when the US struck Libya in March, but backed off for fear of triggering cyberwarfare across the world, it has been revealed.
According to the New York Times, the Obama administration intensely debated whether to open the Libya mission with cyberoffensive. The aim was to disrupt and disable the African country’s air-defence system, which threatened allied warplanes, said the report.
"They were seriously considered because they could cripple Libya’s air defense and lower the risk to pilots, but it just didn’t pan out," a senior Defense Department official told the NYT.
The administration and some military officials feared that the use of cyberwarfare might set a precedent for other nations to use cyberwarfare in conventional wars. The NYT said that Russia and China were the two nations considered to be capable of carrying out similar attacks by the officials. The short notice available for the cyber experts to carry out the offensive was another bottleneck.
Center for Strategic and International Studies senior fellow James Andrew Lewis told the NYT, "It’s the cyberequivalent of fumbling around in the dark until you find the doorknob."
"It takes time to find the vulnerabilities. Where is the thing that I can exploit to disrupt the network?"
Another reason why the US did not use cyberwarfare in the Libya offensive is that the administartion had doubts whether the president had the power to proceed with such an attack without informing Congress.
Lewis said, "We don’t want to be the ones who break the glass on this new kind of warfare."
The paper also quoted one Obama administration official saying, "These cybercapabilities are still like the Ferrari that you keep in the garage and only take out for the big race and not just for a run around town, unless nothing else can get you there."
In June, the Guardian reported that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) used information from users of micro-blogging site Twitter to gather information, such as geolocation, to identify air strike targets in Libya, where it was not allowed to send in ground troops.