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Time Sensitivity In Cyberweapon Reusability

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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A cyberweapon is weaponized software code that exploits flaws in software. It is only effective if the flaw still exists at the time of weapon deployment. Because of this, there is only a small window of time in which a particular cyberweapon can be used. Many argue that cyberweapons can only be effectively used once, and that after first use, the vulnerability will be patched. However, the target must first detect the attack, find the vulnerability that was exploited, reverse-engineer the cyberweapon to identify signatures, then create and implement a patch. This window of opportunity between attack detection and patch implementation allows an attacker to reuse the cyberweapon against different or even the same targets as long as the window of opportunity remains open. An attacker can increase the length of time the window remains open by obfuscating the cyberweapons signatures to make it harder to detect the attack or by making it harder to locate and remove the weapon. This can be accomplished by incorporating survivability into the weapons design requirement. This thesis explores the strategic implications of reusable cyberweapons by specifically looking at stealth as the critical attribute that allows a cyberweapon to go undetected and survive long enough to be effectively used more than once.

Subject Categories:

  • Computer Systems Management and Standards

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