• Iran Spent Years Building a Cyber Arsenal. Will It Unleash That Arsenal Now?

    In 2007, a computer virus crippled centrifuges at Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, setting back its nuclear program by years. Chris Meserole writes that the Stuxnet attack—not uncovered until a few years later—taught the revolutionary regime in Tehran a valuable lesson about how effective cyber weapons can be, prompting Tehran to invest heavily in cyber capabilities of its own. “The results speak for themselves: Iranian hacking groups have graduated from conventional distributed denial of service (DDoS) and domain name system (DNS) attacks to more sophisticated operations against critical infrastructure and industrial control systems,” he writes.

  • Military Cyber Operations: The New NDAA Tailors the 48-Hour Notification Requirement

    Congress will soon enact the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (NDAA fiscal 2020), which includes a provision that will fine-tune the range of military cyberoperations subject to the 48-hour notification requirement associated with “sensitive military cyber operations.”

  • Why Cyber Operations Do Not Always Favor the Offense

    Among policymakers and analysts, the assumption that cyberspace favors the offense is widespread. Those who share this assumption have been urging the U.S. government to prioritize offensive cyber operations. Rebecca Slayton writes that the belief in offense dominance is understandable – but mistaken: A focus on offense “increases international tensions and states’ readiness to launch a counter-offensive after a cyberattack, and it often heightens cyber vulnerabilities,” she writes.

  • U.S. Cyber-Attacked Iran after Iran’s Attack on Saudi Oil: Report

    The United States carried out a cyberattack against Iran after Iran attacked Saudi oil facilities in September. Reuters, citing unnamed U.S. officials, reports that the cyberattacks targeted physical hardware which Iran uses to spread propaganda.

  • Army Cyber Lobbies for Name Change This Year, as Information Warfare Grows in Importance

    Army Cyber Command has been lobbying for a name change to better reflect its growing mission, one in which its cyber professionals are increasingly focused on operating below the threshold of armed conflict every day. Lt. Gen. Stephen Fogarty, Army Cyber commander, says his staff is providing a proposal to change their command’s name to Army Information Warfare Command.

  • Britain Is “At War Every Day” Due to Constant Cyberattacks, Chief of the Defense Staff says

    The Chief of the U.K. Defense Staff has said that Britain is “at war every day” due to constant cyberattacks from Russia and elsewhere. Russia and China’s “interpretation” of the rules governing international engagement threatened “the ethical and legal basis on which we apply the rule of armed conflict,” General Carter said. “Russia is much more of a threat today than it was five years ago.” He added: “There is still clearly going to be human interaction – warfare is essentially a political function - but it will be a much more sophisticated and will include the new domains [alongside land, sea and air] of space and cyber.”

  • The Urgent Search for a Cyber Silver Bullet Against Iran

    After spending billions of dollars to assemble the world’s most potent arsenal of cyberweapons and plant them in networks around the world, United States Cyber Command — and the new era of warfighting it has come to represent — may face a critical test in the coming weeks. To punish Iran for its last month’s attack on Saudi oil facilities, a second U.S. cyberstrike — after one launched against Iran just three months ago — has emerged as the most appealing course of action for President Donald Trump. “The question circulating now through the White House, the Pentagon and Cyber Command’s operations room is whether it is possible to send a strong message of deterrence with a cyberattack without doing so much damage that it would prompt an even larger Iranian counterstrike,” David Sanger and Julian Barnes write, noting that in the past decade, the United States has launched at least three major cyberattacks against Iran. “In each case, the damage to Iranian systems could be repaired over time. And in each case, the effort to deter Iran was at best only partly successful,” they write.

  • Countering Coercion in Cyberspace

    What is cyber coercion, and how have states used cyber operations to coerce others? Based on unclassified, open-source material, the authors of a new RAND report explore how four states — Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea — have used cyber operations, and whether that use constitutes cyber coercion.

  • Corporate Defenses Against Information Warfare

    When asked about Russian election interference during his congressional testimony last month, Robert Mueller said: “They’re doing it as we sit here.” To defend the nation against information warfare, the U.S. government has adopted a policy—by default, not by design—of relying on the private sector to police itself, with limited behind-the-scenes government assistance. Facebook’s website says: “Our detection technology helps us block millions of attempts to create fake accounts every day and detect millions more often within minutes after creation.” These numbers sound impressive, but they do not tell the whole story. To assess the effectiveness of company defenses, we must distinguish among three types of fake accounts: bots, fictitious user accounts, and impostor accounts. Russian agents have created and operated all three types of accounts.

     

  • Sounding the Alarm about Another Kind of 9/11

    Richard Clarke knows some things about clear and present dangers. As the first U.S. counterterrorism czar, he tried to alert important White House decision-makers before September 11 about the threat of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, but those warnings were largely ignored; afterwards, he famously apologized publicly for the government’s failures. These days, Clarke is trying to get people to think hard about the next big attack—the cyber version—and all the ones that have already happened.

  • How Cyber Weapons Are Changing the Landscape of Modern Warfare

    In the weeks before two Japanese and Norwegian oil tankers were attacked, on 13 June, in the Gulf of Oman—acts which the United States attributes to Iran—American military strategists were planning a cyberattack on critical parts of that country’s digital infrastructure. On 20 June, the United States launched a cyberattack aimed at disabling Iran’s maritime operations. Then, in a notable departure from previous Administrations’ policies, U.S. government officials, through leaks that appear to have been strategic, alerted the world, in broad terms, to what the Americans had done.

  • U.S. Offensive Cyber Operations against Economic Cyber Intrusions: An International Law Analysis

    The United States is likely to struggle to make a convincing argument that economic cyber intrusions carried out against it breach international law. Consequently, in most cases the United States would not be able to resort to countermeasures in response. It must therefore show that its offensive cyber operations do not themselves breach international law.

  • Trump Is Rattling Sabers in Cyberspace — but Is the U.S. Ready?

    While U.S. cyber defenses are improving, some experts worry about how the nation would recover from an even larger strike — such as one on the scale of the suspected Russian cyber-assault that blacked out power to more than 200,000 Ukrainians in 2015. The worst-case scenario, say experts, is that the U.S. gets into an escalating round of hacking attacks with some hostile power that spins out of control — with no plan for what to do next.

  • Cyberattack Attribution and the Virtues of Decentralization

    In the midst of rising tensions between the United States and Iran over tanker attacks and Iran’s downing of a U.S. drone, reports emerged that U.S. Cyber Command had launched a responsive cyber operation against a group linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. As cyber operations by both states heat up, non-governmental actors may play pivotal roles, not just as potential victims and collateral damage from states’ actions, but also as accusers of states.

  • What a U.S. operation in Russia shows about the limits of coercion in cyber space

    The New York Times recently reported that the United States planted computer code in the Russian energy grid last year. The operation was part of a broader campaign to signal to Moscow the risks of interfering in the 2018 midterm elections as it did in 2016.  According to unnamed officials, the effort to hold Russian power plants at risk accompanied disruption operations targeting the Internet Research Agency, the “troll farm” behind some of the 2016 election disinformation efforts. The operations made use of new authorities U.S. Cyber Command received to support its persistent engagement strategy, a concept for using preemptive actions to compel adversaries and, over time, establish new norms in cyberspace. Benjamin Jensen writes in War on the Rocks that the character of cyber competition appears to be shifting from political warfare waged in the shadows to active military disruption campaigns. Yet, the recently disclosed Russia case raises question about the logic of cyber strategy. Will escalatory actions such as targeting adversaries’ critical infrastructure actually achieve the desired strategic effect?