US DEFENSE DEPARTMENT LAUNCHES AGGRESSIVE CYBERWAR AGAINST ISIS

Fox News on February 26, 2016, published an AP report on the U.S. military launching a newly aggressive campaign of cyberattacks against Islamic State militants, targeting the group’s abilities to use social media and the Internet to recruit fighters and inspire followers, U.S. officials told The Associated Press. Excerpts below:

The surge of computer-based military operations by U.S. Cyber Command began shortly after Defense Secretary Ash Carter prodded commanders at Fort Meade, Maryland, last month to ramp up the fight against the Islamic State group on the cyber front.

U.S. officials confirmed that operations launched out of Fort Meade have focused on disrupting the group’s online activities. The officials said the effort is getting under way as operators try a range of attacks to see what works and what doesn’t.

Other attacks could include attempts to stop insurgents from conducting financial or logistical transactions online.

Several U.S. officials spoke about the cyber campaign on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. Much of the effort is classified.

…the military cyber fight is limited by concerns within the intelligence agencies that blocking the group’s Internet access could hurt intelligence gathering.

Officials said Carter told commanders that he wanted creative options that would allow the U.S. to impact Islamic State without diminishing the indications or warnings intelligence officers can glean about what the group is doing.

U.S. officials have long been stymied by militants’ ability to use the Internet as a vehicle for inspiring so-called lone wolf attackers in Western nations, radicalized after reading propaganda easily available online.

“Why should they be able to communicate? Why should they be using the Internet?” Carter said during Congressional testimony before the defense appropriations subcommittee. “The Internet shouldn’t be used for that purpose.”

He added that the U.S. can conduct cyber operations under the legal authorities associated with the ongoing war against the Islamic State group.

The U.S. has also struggled to defeat high-tech encryption techniques used by Islamic State and other groups to communicate. Experts have been working to find ways to defeat those programs.

The Pentagon is building 133 cyber teams by 2018, including 27 that are designed for combat and will work with regional commands to support warfighting operations. There will be 68 teams assigned to defend Defense Department networks and systems, 13 that would respond to major cyberattacks against the U.S., and 25 support teams.

Comment: This is important news in the battle against Islamic terrorism. It is surprising that DoD has waited so long to take this step. Hopefully more steps will come and cyberwarfare initiated against the largest terrorist groups around the world. Defensive cyberwarfare should be considered in other type of conflicts.

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