Sun Tzu and The Art of Cyber-War
A while back I decided to throw my hat in the ring for RSAC and Shmoo. I made neither's list of presentations but I thought this still was worth putting out there for people to see. I had been talking with Jericho and Josh Corman about cyber war because of their presentation at Brucon and this idea popped up in my head because Jericho had pointed out too many people cite Sun Tzu poorly in these types of presentations. Well Jericho is right and often times not many of the tenets of Sun Tzu make it into the presentations. On average you will see maybe one or two and that's it, but The Art of War has many other chapters and quotes that map to general warfare and that includes Cyber-War (so called) Generally however the overall tactics put forth by the Art of War are applicable because this is warfare we are talking about no matter the landscape (electronic) that we are fighting it in. You still have adversaries looking to defeat one another using guile and force today just as in the day of Sun Tzu. The real issue comes down to reading between the lines of the old text and applying the ideas to the modern landscape of the electron, the malware, and the phishing attack.
All of these efforts though will lead to the age old means of kinetic warfare and this is what people seem to not understand so well today. War is war and eventually its all going to be about the guns and bombs and not so much just about the data being stolen or messed with. We have a problem today in the semantic of war in the digital age that needs to be cleared up for the general populace. I hope that this tutorial will not only be historical but also give the reader the tools needed to understand that cyber-war is not the end all be all, it is in fact just a precursor to the type of war that has been waged since man could pick up a rock and throw it.
China, Sun Tzu, & APT
On another level though, I find it amazing that more people have not had the light bulb go on about our situation today with regard to Chinese hacking and espionage. What we have seen is not cyber-war yet but the prelude, the reconnaissance to carry out war and that is all. The Chinese (and others) have begun mapping our networks, prodding our defenses, and assessing our overall readiness by using digital attacks on private and governmental networks and systems. Think of it all as spying and not just one for war footing alone. There is of course the industrial espionage as well but in the case of China in particular they are all means to an end. The "Thousand Grains of Sand" approach is doctrine in China as is the mindset they have always had having had masters like Sun Tzu as their teachers. Look at this slide deck and then take a step back and look at the APT-1 report as well as others. Note that the Chinese military is the state and that the PLA is just an arm of the military unlike in the US where the military is a little more separated and at the behest of POTUS.
Sun Tzu said it best in The Art of War;
"It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle."
It's time to be more introspective about ourselves as well as the adversary and Sun Tzu is a good way to get there.