Digital Conflict

By Kevin Coleman

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Kevin Coleman

Cyberattacks come from foes big and small

At an AFCEA conference held in Baltimore in August, Marine LtGen Richard Mills, who led international forces in southwestern Afghanistan between 2010 and 2011, said during his briefing that U.S. commanders now consider cyber weapons another weapon in their arsenal to prosecute their missions.

In his comments he openly stated that as a commander in the Afghan War, he was able to use cyber operations with great impact. He went on to say that he used the cyber intelligence he had gathered to defend U.S. systems against the nearly continuous hostile cyberattacks designed to affect his operations.

If you really examine what Mills said, two very important observations can be drawn from these comments. 

First and foremost, this is a huge accomplishment when it comes to opening up the minds of military leaders to the potential cyber weapons have when it comes to strategies, tactics and mission planning.

Second, most non-military personnel look at our adversaries in Afghanistan as unsophisticated combatants. Most have an image of roaming armed groups with automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade launchers. Very few individuals have mental models of our enemy that include the capability to launch cyberattacks against our systems.

The best cyber intelligence comes from monitoring cyberattacks against our systems--both in theater and everywhere throughout the world. The mental model that suggests we should only be concerned about the cyber capabilities of top militaries around the world could not be further from reality. The recent disclosure of cyberattacks that disrupted the Iranian nuclear enrichment process has legitimized cyber weapons and their capabilities for those who were doubters.

Posted by Defense Systems Staff on Aug 30, 2012 at 9:26 PM

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