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Cyber Warfare: Could It Be in Our Future?

Cyber Warfare: Could It Be in Our Future?

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By James Lint
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Military University
Senior Editor for
 In Cyber Defense and Contributor, In Homeland Security

Last week, the Army published a new and unclassified document, Army Field Manual 3-12Cyberspace and Electronic Warfare Operations. However, it appears that U.S. cyber superiority is not as dominant as we believe.

The foreword of FM 3-12 says that in the past decade, “U.S. forces dominated cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) in Afghanistan and Iraq against enemies and adversaries lacking the technical capabilities to challenge our superiority in cyberspace.” Unfortunately, this manual also gives bad news, stating “However, regional peers have since demonstrated impressive capabilities in a hybrid operational environment that threaten the Army’s dominance in cyberspace and the EMS.”

What is the significance of this statement? It means that not just the leading powers of Russia and China can impact our dominance of cyberspace, but smaller countries such as North Korea, Iran or similar economically inferior countries have the opportunity for cyber warfare as well.

Cyber Warfare Today Is Cheaper for Smaller Countries

The world has changed and many countries are investing in the brainpower needed for the relatively cheap weaponry of cyber. For example, the M1 Main Battle Tank per unit cost was $6.21 million in 1999. Now, the price of 10 cyber warriors (formally called geeks two decades ago) is much more cost-effective.

Cyber warfare can cause damage to defense and civilian infrastructures. Countries with smaller budget can now have field forces that can hurt the U.S. population and slow military deployments.

In the past, cyber warriors would have been a source of comedy, but not today. While M1 tank operators are well known for their swagger, now it’s the hackers who can do major operational or strategic damage while the tank operators can only influence a tactical battlefield.

Examples of Strategic Hacking

Ukraine has been the target of two large power disruptions in 2015 and 2016, which impacted a total of 100,000 to 225,000 people. The 2015 attack alone affected 225,000 people; a pro-Russian group called Sandworm was the suspected attacker. These hackers denied people heat during a cold Ukrainian winter.

The Sony Corporation hack in 2014 cost Sony $35 million in information technology repairs. If this attack had occurred in a government or military organization, the cost would be equally high. Imagine an attack on government or military research and development site. The price could easily climb to the cost of the Sony hack and could influence future national security and combat superiority at the same time. An attack on government organizations isn’t only expensive; it can have a huge effect on a country’s future.

US Readying Its Ability to Fight Cyber Wars

U.S. cyber leaders and the U.S. uniformed forces’ cyber commands are growing their cyber-fighting capabilities. With the publication of this new cyber field manual, the U.S. military has clearly recognized that cyber is a warfighting domain.

About the Author

James R. Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. He is an adjunct professor at AMU. James has been involved in cyberespionage events from just after the turn of the century in Korea supporting 1st Signal Brigade to the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis as the first government cyber intelligence analyst. He has 38 years of experience in military intelligence with the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, government contracting and civil service.

Additionally, James started the Lint Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit charity that recently awarded its 45th scholarship for national security students and professionals. James was also elected as the 2015 national vice president for the Military Intelligence Corps Association. He has also served in the Department of Energy’s S&S Security Office after his active military career in the Marine Corps for seven years and 14 years in the Army. His military assignments include South Korea, Germany and Cuba, in addition to numerous CONUS locations. James has authored a book published in 2013, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned,” a book published in 2016 “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea,” and a new book in 2017, Secrets to Getting a Federal Government Job.”

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