Should US adopt the Godfather cyber defense doctrine?

While rereading Marion Puzo’s "The Godfather," I came across a helpful suggestion for solving one of the thorniest problems of cyber war today: attribution. Knowing the source of an attack might not be necessary to defending against it, but how do you respond or retaliate if you don’t know who is attacking you?

Vito Corleone addressed this issue in his speech at the Mafia peace conference. He was willing to let bygones be bygones, he said. But he warned against any future interference with his family. “If my son is struck by a bolt of lightning, I will blame some of the people in this room,” he said.

The assembled dons understood. It was in everyone’s best interest that there be no attacks.

This smacks somewhat of Mutually Assured Destruction, the truly mad Cold War nuclear doctrine, but it just might work. If Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the U.S. Cyber Command, were to tell the United Nations that if, God forbid, one of our servers gets a virus or our electric grid goes down, he is going to "blame some of the people in this room," it might be a call to mutual defense they could not refuse.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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Reader Comments

Tue, Apr 24, 2012 Sam USA

Yes, it is difficult to identify and geo-locate hackers. With the resources at the disposal of the DoD and the assistance of others, this is not impossible. It just takes a bit of time, persistence, determination and some funding. Many times only hours. There is a huge difference between court-room-proof for Law Enforcement prosecution and the kind of broad information with geo-location that the DoD requires so that they can kill a fly with a bazooka. Lets us face facts, Generals do not sign off on a target attack order that names one individual The DoD is geared and equipment to attack and destroy all life in an entire grid square. With their current ROE they must have the permission of the President to cyber-attack a single hacker on foreign soil. The Godfather Rule cited of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) will never work with a loose collection of hackers that recognize no authority. There is no Don or Cappo’s to keep these kids from doing something incredibly stupid or bad for business. Especially this is true when dealing with the ‘Anonymous’ bands of socialist e-bomb throwers. The CIA could bring back the old Cold War rules of Al Capone for those that are found and fixed overseas. Al Capone’s Chicago Rules is most appropriate. This would require a spine change at the stodgy and risk averse CIA. Our first Capone option should be to scare the hell out of them and “I'm gonna make him an offer he won't refuse.” - Don Corleone, from the movie The Godfather. Most of them will take the offer and some will refuse. For those that refuse our hand in friendship or cash; then Capone’s Chicago Rules must be the hospital or the morgue. After a few accidents the word will spread not to piss on Uncle Sam’s leg. Not unless you are personally willing to risk having your legs and fingers broken in return (at the minimum). For idiota hackers it is really hard to type on a keyboard when both of your hands and arms are in casts. For those who are truly stupid then Capone’s crew with choppers and shotguns at ten paces posted live and in color on hacknet is the Final Option. That message will be clearly understood by the rest of them.

Tue, Apr 24, 2012 Max Virginia

The 9/11 plotters were from Dar al Islam. They do not differentiate between nations, it is a manichean worldview, us and them. I agree the Saudis are the snake head, but the other 53 nations of the OIC are a unit. Our mistake is thinking we can reform them. Read the Afghan constitution we helped write--its only for Muslims, all else will be persecuted, even and especially those Afghans who choose to leave Islam.

Fri, Apr 20, 2012 earth

Well I am glad they didn’t take the mutually assured destruction path if the bombs had a tendency to go off spontaneously and everyone and their brother had access to them. The world would have been dead within a year of taking that stance. (Lightening hitting people is a rare event while there are many virus’s and Trojans in the wilds.)

This sounds like an excuse to abuse the people you don’t like. We tell China that if anything happens to our servers they get hit and the Philippians will work diligently to hack us. This isn’t going to make China feel secure and we become an arbitrary threat to life on earth, not that we haven’t reached that stage already (what country were the 9/11 plotters from? Afghanistan? Iraq? Or Saudi.

Those that work toward the continued evolution of life on earth should not be blamed if they see us as a mad dog that needs to be put down. But we don’t seem to be working toward any moral intelligence lately.

Wed, Apr 18, 2012

Not leave the gun, take the canoli?

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