Digital Conflict

By Kevin Coleman

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Kevin Coleman

What might special operations in cyber look like?

Ever considered what special operations in the cyber domain might look like? This is boots on the ground cyber operations.

Special operations stories have been captured by Hollywood and usually result in big audience draws, though Hollywood might have a harder time with the limited actions commonly equated with cyber attacks.

The topic of special cyber operations came up in a recent military training lecture I recently gave. This is not the first time the concept for special cyber operations has come up. When many hear the term they envision a lone-wolf hacker in front of a computer coding away. In reality that could not be further from the truth.

Special cyber ops can have all the action, danger and intrigue of conventional operations we attribute to a Seal-team raid. All it takes is to understand the threat domain, a fundamental understanding of the exploitation of computer and communications technology.

This thinking has made it to the frontal lobes of military planners, and we even include two special cyber ops scenarios in the cyber war-gaming that we use in our training. The mental models of special cyber ops missions include “boots on the ground,” a term that was used in one discussion on this topic.

I hinted at this three years ago ( when I blogged about cross-functional teams and the need for collaboration. A year later on my cyber intelligence blog (

I talked about the need for innovation and creativity in the development of our strategies and tactics for offensive, defensive and intelligence activities in cyber space. This is what provides the element of surprise when targeting an adversary.

The concept of special cyber ops is rapidly evolving, as are most of the concepts, strategies and weapons used in the cyber domain. Perhaps in the not so distant future, details about one of the highly sensitive special cyber ops missions will leak out like most things are doing these days. You can be sure that Hollywood will quickly follow.

Posted by Kevin Coleman on Apr 25, 2013 at 9:26 PM

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