WASHINGTON -- Lt. Gen. Robert Younger Sr., a commander of computers in the US Air Force, explained the threat of computers to other generals who had flown to Washington to discuss air power. Younger used a "Transformers" toy figurine and a clip from the upcoming "Iron Man" movie to drive home his points.
"Cyberspace is increasingly critical and inseparable from our national power and interests," General Younger told the other generals. He then held up a harmless-looking DVD player. "This may seem like an ordinary boom box, but it's actually a deadly Autobot that can hack into Air Force communications systems. It can plant a computer virus on our networks from the safety of Air Force One, and it can even kill people if it gains the element of physical surprise." He pushed a button and it transformed into a battle droid.
"The Air Force has come a long way since the first 'Iron Eagle' movie," General Younger said, "but we've got a new set of problems." He played a clip from the forthcoming movie "Iron Man," where the hero rockets away from a pair of F-22s. "Those are the best aircraft and the best wingmen we've got," he said, "but they can't keep up with one guy in a cybernetic flying suit. We couldn't even pick off Bruce Willis with an F-22." The other generals laughed until General Younger pressed the issue.
"I'm serious," General Younger said. "In every new film that features the Air Force, we end up getting our asses kicked by some kid who knows Linux. Or we lose a whole squadron of aircraft to some robot with an EMP weapon. In 'Live Free or Die Hard,' the villains break into our Air Tasking Order software and convince our pilots to shoot at people right here in our own country."
General Younger stabbed his finger at the podium to stress his point. "It was Chinese military hackers who convinced our bomber crews to strap on some nukes and fly across the heartland. If the Russian government can wipe Estonia off the map like they did, then they can certainly wipe America off the map. We've got very dangerous enemies out there and they're turning our own computers against us."
"If cyber is restrictive, it would be detrimental to the way you operate," General Younger told the other generals. "That is why all elements of cyber must be defended." He pleaded with the other generals to "re-allocate billions of dollars" from air and space programs "so that we can defend our networks from extraterrestrial computer viruses and alcoholic magnates who build cybernetic flying suits."