US Army 780th Military Intelligence Brigade conduct cyberspace operations training for the 2nd Stryker BCT, 2nd Inf Div, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA., Jan 24, 2016

US Army Cyber Command Takes the Fight to ISIS

On the Offensive against ISIS in Cyber Space

The US Army is fighting ISIS in cyber space every single day, according to the Commanding General of the US Army’s Cyber Command. Lt. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, Commanding General of U.S. Army Cyber Command, said at the 2017 Defense One Tech Summit:

We are conducting offensive operations against ISIS today in support of US Central Command and US Special Forces […] we are contesting not only their presence there, but also delivering cost against what they are doing.

Efforts are focused on supporting ground combat commanders, meaning that network disruptions and hacks are intended to have on-the-ground impact for soldiers engaged in operations against ISIS. This could include an electronic warfare approach, for example, corrupting their electromagnetic communication signals.

Targeting Islamic State’s Internet of Things

Lt. Gen. Nakasone declined to give specifics when questioned on whether operations against ISIS were conducted through channels related to the internet of things (IOT), or the network connectivity of electronic devices and everyday objects. However, in another discussion, Col. Drew Cukor, Project Manager of the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team (AWCFT), described his development of algorithms for use against ISIS as focused on IOT access due to ISIS’s lack of more sophisticated technology.

Our problem isn’t super sophisticated. I call it our ‘better homes and gardens’ ontology, which is essentially trucks and all of the [electronic] features that exist in general society.

The last publically disclosed major cyber operation against ISIS began last November, and raised concerns about the U.S. conducting cyber warfare in other countries’ domains whose networks happened to be used by ISIS. According to a former official quoted in The Washington Post, operations included denying ISIS propaganda experts access to their online accounts, and remotely erasing battlefield video footage from ISIS servers.

Integrating Cyber and Ground Operations

Even as cyber warfare is being waged against ISIS on a daily basis, Army Cyber Command is still seeking ways to greater integrate cyber operations with ground combat operations. Lt. Gen. Nakasone explaine:

We are doing work on integration, particularly with electronic warfare, cyber, information warfare in the crucible of our combat training center [with] the idea of being able to bring those capabilities together to see if a commander can utilize them.

Despite the attention being dedicated to the cyber fight against ISIS, Lt. Gen. Nakasone was clear that Army cyber teams are doing their best to support ground commanders everywhere. However, Lt. Gen. Nakasone admitted:

There is a finite availability of any resource. As we look to the future we are going to provide support to a variety of commanders and we are going to do that to the best of our ability.


Image: US Army 780th Military Intelligence Brigade conducts cyberspace operations training for the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Inf Div, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA., Jan 24, 2016.

Leave a Reply