In January of 2013, the Pentagon’s Defence Science Board released an alarming report about the military’s vulnerability to an advanced cyber attack. “The cyber threat is serious,” the report states in its opening pages, “and [the] United States cannot be confident that our critical Information Technology systems will work under attack from a sophisticated and well-resourced opponent.”
The report is about the technological leading edge of threats against U.S. national security — so it’s appropriate that it includes a graphic of dizzying complexity, where pie charts, bar graphs, and line graphs vie for attention within a six-chambered thematic grid:
This graphic appears in a subsection that discusses the possible stress-testing of the Department of Defence’s systems against a possible cyber blitz. The authors’ goal is to eventually measure the “average time it takes to detect a successful attack that breaches the network perimeter defenses, and the amount of time it takes to recover a system that is lost as a result of a cyber attack.” The chart — or chart of charts — is a “notional dashboard of system performance metrics,” or a guide for even figuring out how to judge the Defence Department’s ability to cope with a sophisticated cyber attack.
A lot apparently goes into such an assessment, including manpower and cost considerations, intelligence gathering, and advanced modelling of how a cyber-confrontation would likely play out. The graphic gives a sense of just how many moving parts defensive cyber-war has to it — even if these complexities make for one of the more bewildering graphics we’ve come across in a military document.
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