Summary: Our war with ISIS is almost invisible to Americans. Only lightly reported by the press, visible mostly in the domestic terrorism it inspires. Even less visible is our cyberwar with ISIS. One of the most active fronts of the war, it is a harbinger of future conflicts. Here Emilio Iasiello briefs us on the US attacks by the lavishly-funded US Cyber Command. What are they doing? What successes? Second of two posts today.
Screenshot: you have been hacked by ISIS.
By Emilio Iasiello from CyberDB.
Reposted with his generous permission.
Mid-July 2016 reporting reveals that U.S. cyber offensives against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) online recruiting and propaganda activities has not yielded the types of results that were initially anticipated. According to the news article, the debut effort of the U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) has not been effective, despite officials declining to provide any specifics as to the types of operations being conducted. What was revealed was that CYBERCOM’s commander Admiral Michael Rogers had created a unit charged with the mission of developing digital weapons to support this effort. Joint Task Force Ares, a 100-person strong unit, will not only build tools, but may engaged in other possible missions such as disrupting the terrorist group’s payment system and denying access to their current chat application of choice.
Nevertheless, despite aspirations and being the first publicly declared online military operation by any nation state, success has been fleeting. This is certainly a disappointing turn of events for a country largely believed to be the most cyber capable in the world. The recent slow progress is impeding the normalization of how cyber attacks can be used as a potential military tool. Officials hoped that the ISIS campaign would help normalize how cyber attacks can be leveraged similarly as airstrikes to support military objectives, to take cyber out of the shadows and provide a bit more transparency, according to a senior Pentagon official. As of now, there has been little anecdotal evidence showing this type of success.
Part of the problem may be that CYBERCOM, despite being an official sub-unified command for approximately seven years, is simply not ready. Admiral Rogers conceded that the first dedicated cyber troops will be operational by early fall, and expected the command to be fully operational by September 30, 2018, calling into question the capability and talent of the current staffing levels. Such speculation has been raised in a June 2016 article that highlighted CYBERCOM’s struggles with identifying, recruiting, and retaining top talent. The Command’s Cyber Mission Force will eventually have 6,200 people split into 133 teams, half of which will be assigned to protecting networks, 20 percent dedicated to combat missions, 10 percent assigned to national mission teams to protect critical infrastructure, and the remaining fifth assigned unspecified “support” functions.