Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cuba capable of waging a cyberwar


During the last few weeks there have been thousands of cyber attacks on computers and computer networks in the U.S. government and private entities. The United States, because of its dependence on computers, is very vulnerable to such attacks. A cyber attack on the United States could crush our country and the world economy, which depends on the United States as the world's leading economy. If they take us down, they cripple everybody. The U.S. government has not publicly identified where the cyber attacks are coming from, but Cuba has such potential. A partially declassified CIA document released several years ago notes that Cuba started in 1991 to study how to interfere with computer networks. This project had a modest budget of $50,000. The Soviet Union maintained in Cuba the Lourdes electronic espionage base, to which Cuba did not have direct access. That base was dismantled in 2002, but there are others.

Upping the investment

In 1994, Cuba and Russia agreed to build a similar base in Bejucal, south of Havana. It became operational in December 1997 at a cost of $750 million. The Bejucal base shows the importance Cuba puts on cybernetics -- having gone from a $50,000 budget to $750 million in only six years. The Bejucal base has the capacity to listen to U.S. telecommunications, interfere with computer networks, read/change electronic files and, more important, change output commands of computers used to control infrastructure facilities. In 1999, China and Cuba signed an agreement, known as Operation Titan, which allows Chinese personnel to collaborate at the Bejucal base and other facilities in Cuba. Since 2002, Cuba has used China's satellites to operate the Bejucal base, which employs 1,100 engineers, technicians and staff. The Cuban government has emphasized training talented young engineers in computation and cybernetics. A select group has been placed in key positions in cyber facilities there. The Cuban government has declared publicly that computers have replaced canons in the modern asymmetric war. Here's a partial list of other Cuban cybernetic facilities I've found through years of research:

• The Electronic Warfare Batallion in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana cost $75 million. Its main task is interfering with telecommunications.
• The Cojimar electronic complex, east of La Habana, cost $40 million.
• The Wajay farm, also known as the Antenna Farm, near Bejucal cost $15 million and houses hundreds of special antennas.
• The antenna farm in Santiago in eastern Cuba is similar to the one in Wajay and cost about $15 million.
• The University of Informative Sciences was established in 2003 on the site of the old Russian
Lourdes base, enrolling 10,000 students in a five-year program.

In the summer of 2004, Cuba interfered with satellite communications from the United States to the people of Iran from the Bejucal base. That operation confirms Cuba's high technology and its close ties with Iran. Cuba and Iran, along with Sudan and Syria, are classified by the U.S. State Department as state sponsors of terrorism in its April report. Cuba is considered to have the most developed cyber infrastructure among those countries. American society, the media and civic and judicial institutions should realize that Cuba's cybernetic war threatens our democratic principles and freedom. We ignore it at our own peril.

Manuel Cereijo is an electrical and computer engineering professor who holds patents in manufacturing, telecommunications and control systems. He lectures at the University of Miami.