The Cyber Defense Review


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The Cyber Defense Review: Summer Special Edition on IO/IW

July 27, 2020 — Welcome to our first themed edition of The Cyber Defense Review (CDR). Our inaugural themed edition is focused on information operations (IO) and information warfare (IW). IO and IW are not new constructs within the history of conflict. However, the exponential adoption and weaponization of social media technologies are rapidly changing the character of modern conflict. Soon digitally networked technologies known as the Internet of Things (IoT) unprecedented influence of targeted populations will widely come online and supercharge the precision and reach of social media to enable these powerful information technologies are enabling our adversaries to achieve strategic goals and objectives that avoid our military strengths within the spaces short of armed conflict. As evidenced in 21st century conflicts thus far, the ubiquitous and amplifying effects of Information Age technologies are being used by our adversaries in ways that create a symphony of chaos, confusion, and polarization of targeted populations. These capabilities provide militarily inferior adversaries with the ability to achieve information parity at the minimum and information advantage at the maximum. If left unchecked, access to inexpensive and increasingly powerful commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies will continue to provide our adversaries with the means to achieve information advantage in continuously innovative ways at a fraction of the cost of conventional warfare. MORE

Enabling the Army in an Era of Information Warfare

July 27, 2020 — Operations against ISIS, disrupting Russian attempts to interfere in the 2018 US midterm elections and, most recently, countering Iran's attempts to increase instability across the Middle East mark important efforts by the US military to find effective capabilities, doctrinal concepts, and appropriate roles in an era of information warfare. We must fight the battles our adversaries put before us. If our doctrines, systems, and processes do not match that reality, then it is time for new thinking. Through three decades of near-ceaseless global operations, “Information Operations,” or IO has endured as the mainstay approach for how the Armed Services and the Joint Force conceptualize and apply informational power as an integral element of military operations. Despite evolving definitions, ever-changing formulations, and passionate assertions as to both its criticality and utility, IO remains doctrinal and relevant, though often misunderstood, a term of military art. Most often, IO has proved useful at tactical and operational levels of war. At more strategic and political levels, the efficacy of IO remains elusive, and US leaders, both civilian and military, have been less than adept at effectively realizing the potential of “informational power.” MORE

16th Air Force and Convergence for the Information War

July 27, 2020 — The world has changed, and our approach to warfare must change with it. As traditional organized power structures erode, disorder fills the void. We are moving from successive regional conflicts to a future characterized by continual global competition. This circumstance will reward those who can leverage information for strategic advantage. The 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) described this new paradigm by emphasizing the need to compete with adversaries now.[1] The Air Force recognizes that we are already in competition below the threshold of armed conflict. Within the Air Force, the standup of 16th Air Force as an Information Warfare (IW) Numbered Air Force (NAF) in October 2019 represents a direct response to this new reality. In the document directing the standup, the Air Force described IW as “The employment of military capabilities in and through the information environment to deliberately affect adversary human and system behavior.”[2] Our task is to synchronize – Cyberspace; Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR); Electromagnetic Warfare (EW); Information Operations (IO) – across the continuum of cooperation, competition, and conflict, and support the joint force’s ability to compete, deter, and win wars across multiple domains. MORE

Countering Disinformation: Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?

July 27, 2020 — In his 2019 book, Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About it, Richard Stengel detailed the Department of State’s (DoS) struggles in this burgeoning space. Stengel leaves the reader with a view of the United States Government (USG), where individual departments and agencies resist collaboration and tackle disinformation as individual departments and agencies. The result is a poorly integrated effort with limited awareness of parallel activities, significant challenges to cross-department and inter-agency collaboration, and the inability to evaluate and describe success or failure. Rather than accept Stengel’s description as the only way the USG can function, this article posits counterpoints derived from direct involvement with multiple USG departments and agencies during both the Obama and Trump administrations. The counterargument is an understanding of cross-governmental authorities combined with collaborative implementation leads to greater success in combating disinformation. MORE

Building the Army's Artificial Intelligence Workforce

July 27, 2020 — Artificial intelligence (AI) is a set of algorithmic tools and technologies that enable machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence—such as perceiving the world, learning from experience, reasoning through information, representing knowledge, acting, and adapting.[1] Given the multitude of rapid technological advancements in AI, computing, big data analytics and autonomy, the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) emphasized the importance of leveraging the “very technologies that ensure we will be able to fight and win the wars of the future.” The 2018 NDS flags ways to modernize key capabilities in “address[ing] the scope and pace of our competitors’ and adversaries’ ambitions and capabilities,” and the need to “invest broadly in military application of autonomy, AI, and machine learning, including rapid application of commercial breakthroughs, to gain competitive military advantages.” MORE

Truth Dies First: Storyweapons on the InfoOps Battlefield

July 27, 2020 — Storyweapons are adversarial narratives that use algorithms, automation, codespaces, and data to hijack decision-making, and the stories of who we are, what we believe and why it matters. They leverage vulnerabilities and weaknesses against people and populations; they subvert freewill to bend actions to self-sabotage. Storyweapons exploit attack vectors across our new mixed reality of code and cognition, and they move the frontlines into the minds and software connected to any strategic objective. Defending the US against storyweapons requires a reconsideration of battlefields, operational models, and threat actors. MORE

Cyberwar is What States Make of it

July 27, 2020 — None there at the time could forget the vicious cyberattack on Venezuela’s power systems in March 2019. Four days of chaos ensued. Stores and restaurants closed. Card payments systems were down, with customers asked to pay in dollars. Disrupted public transportation left many unable to get to work. Looting ensued. Seventeen people died in hospitals for lack of electricity. MORE

Doctrinal Confusion and Cultural Dysfunction in DoD

July 27, 2020 — The doctrinal history of information operations, cyber operations, and psychological operations within DoD is tangled and confused. Moreover, those military specialties rank lower in the DoD pecking order, and those with such specialties are accorded less respect than those specializing in traditional combat arts. These two realities have led to inconsistent usage of these and related terms within DoD and the larger national security community in government as well as in public discourse and, arguably, a misallocation of resources given the importance of the information environment in military operations. MORE

Understanding and Pursuing Information Advantage

July 27, 2020 — The information environment (IE) and operations in and through the IE are currently a particular point of emphasis within the Department of Defense (DoD). Information is the newest joint function (joining command and control, intelligence, fires, movement and maneuver, protection, and sustainment). The Marine Corps has followed suit and made information a warfighting function, and the Army is considering a similar move. 2016 saw the first DoD Strategy for Operations in the Information Environment, and 2017 saw the development of the Joint Concept for Operating in the Information Environment, signed and released (and the subject of a capabilities-based assessment) in 2018. Senior leaders across the department have repeatedly expounded on the importance of the IE for military operations and declared it a priority. MORE

Information Weapons: Russia's Nonnuclear Strategic Weapons of Choice

July 27, 2020 — For many years now, Russia has defined and even expanded its concept of “information weapons (IWes).”[1] At one point, Russia attempted to get the concept introduced into United Nations resolutions, which at the time helped to guarantee Russian information and national security. This occurred in the 1990s when Russia was at its weakest and unable to compete with other nations in information warfare capabilities. MORE

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