The Cyber Effect On Modern Warfare

Even before the Iranian oil tanker attacks the US had been planning cyber-attacks on Iran, according to a report in The New Yorker magazine. 

On June 20th, hours after the US Global Hawk surveillance drone, which cost over $100m, was destroyed over the Strait of Hormuz by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, the US Cyber Command launched a retaliatory digital strike against an Iranian spy group that had assisted the attacks on commercial ships.

Unusually, the US then used the world press and media to get its message across to the Iranians and the world that it was using cyber as a military attack mode.

Teams at the US Cyber Command have changed the way warfare will be conducted in the future. And so the cyber-attack on Iran has begun the military change to cyber war making it now a method that will be used as the new military surveillance and attack strategy.

During much of the Obama Administration, the United States cyber arsenal was strictly classified but now under Trump this tactic has changed and now the Department of Defense has already issued a strategic plan that not only confirmed the existence of cyber weapons but declared its commitment to using them “to advance US interests” and “defend forward.” 

At Cyber Command, teams are assigned to specific adversaries, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China, among them, and spend years working alongside the intelligence community to gain access to digital networks. 

While the cyber-attack on Iranian maritime installations appeared to be an immediate response to the destruction of the drone, it was actually a long time in the making. 

Last year, the Pentagon gave Cyber Command the same command positon as the nine other combat commands. which include Central Command and Special Operations Command, an indication of the Internet’s growing importance as both a strategic domain and a military asset. 

In the past, the threat of mutually assured destruction was the way that nuclear powers kept one another’s lethal capabilities in check. Cyber weapons may offer some of the same assurances, but only to a point. Unlike nuclear weapons, which are expensive and stockpiled by a small number of states, cyber weapons are cheap and widely available, not just to nation-states but to criminals and malign actors. 

Also unlike conventional weapons, whose trajectories are easily traced, cyber weapons, which move through fibre-optic cables that crisscross the globe, lend themselves to plausible deniability. 

How do you levy a threat when it’s not clear where an attack is coming from or who is responsible? The impact of a cyber-attack can prove similarly elusive. The Trump Administration, with Bolton in the lead, has made offensive cyber operations an integral arm of statecraft.

It remains an open question whether they will also become lethal weapons of war.

New Yorker:        Yahoo:

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