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The Cyber Defense Review


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Cybered Competition, Cooperation, and Conflict in a Game of Imperfect Information

August 7, 2021 — This article proposes that “the strategy of conflict,” or game theory, can enhance joint planning processes applied to cybersecurity operations. Game theory could perhaps prove most useful during operational design for understanding actors, tendencies, and potentials actions inherent in cooperation, competition, and conflict situations. A canonical anti-coordination game, Hawk-Dove, is employed to explore equilibrium evolutionary game strategies and deterrence outcomes applicable to cyberspace operations. Tractable extensions to the Hawk-Dove game are introduced to understand mechanisms for signaling, reputation, norms, and ambiguity in deterrence. Game parameters are transferred to a model of Surprise-Attack for comparison. Advantages and disadvantages for incorporating games in the joint planning process are considered. MORE

Technology Adoption in Unconventional Warfare

August 7, 2021 — As US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) rebalances its primary focus, shifting from Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs) to competition with Russia and China, there must be a greater emphasis on integrating cyberspace capabilities into the Unconventional Warfare (UW) doctrine. Section 1202 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 designates USSOCOM as the lead for irregular warfare, empowering Special Operations Forces (SOF) to leverage select irregular forces, resourced under specific legal authorities to live off the land in support of irregular warfare missions. Combatant Commands retain operational command and control despite this designation. As a recommendation on how the US should employ non-traditional forces, this article shows how nation-states like China, North Korea (DPRK), Iran, and Russia use cyber proxies to conduct combined operations. It then considers how SOF can add an asymmetric technique to unconventional warfare by using cyber-capable irregular forces at the tactical level to serve as force multipliers. Finally, the USSOCOM Resistance Operations Concept (ROC) will be expanded to demonstrate how to better engage cyber proxies within UW. MORE

RT and the Element of Disguise: Russia's Information Weapon

August 7, 2021 — Western journalists have labelled RT, Russia’s state-controlled international television network, as the Kremlin’s “lie machine,” “Putin’s weapon of mass deception,” or even as an active participant in “Russia’s propaganda Blitzkrieg”. However, there is less scholarship on the network, particularly addressing the reasons for its reported success at recruiting a global audience. After a brief topography of Russian foreign-language broadcasting, this article explores this gap in three stages, first explaining why disguise is important to RT’s role as Russia’s information weapon. During moments deemed critical, using the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in 2018 as a case study, RT flooded the information space with false or misleading narratives to disrupt Western broadcasting. Here, critical moments denote instances of heightened tension between Russia and the West. This is a subversive campaign that utilizes information within the framework of Giles and Kelushov. During non-critical periods, RT imitates Western news outlets in content and cosmetics to build an image of authenticity and attract a trusting audience. This, in turn, amplifies RT’s subversive campaign during critical moments. Interviews between RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan and Russian journalists support my analysis of RT as Russia’s information weapon and provide a historical perspective on the importance of disguise since the 2008 Georgian War. Second, the article explores RT’s engagement to demonstrate that this tactic is effective in attracting a faithful audience and, therefore, disrupting the narrative space. Finally, the article discusses the possibility of Western countries removing RT’s broadcasting licence, and analyzes disputes between the UK’s broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, and RT. MORE

Combined Information Overlay for Situational Awareness in the Digital-Anthropological Terrain

August 7, 2021 — As noted in the 2019 National Intelligence Strategy, technology-driven transformation across social, political, and economic domains continues at warp speed. Implications for militaries and their supporting Intelligence Community (IC) have expanded both in scope and complexity. Joint operational planning and evaluation occur in this disrupted and transitional environment, with very little predictable framework capable of guiding practitioners and strategists. This article addresses this discrepancy. MORE

Risks to the Mission Partner Environment: Adversarial Access to Host Nation Network Infrastructure

August 7, 2021 — NATO’s ability to communicate and win in the next conflict is based on the idea of Federated Mission Networking (FMN). The US initiative for the FMN is the Mission Partner Environment (MPE). This framework is built around the use of host nation network infrastructure. Recently, adversarial nations have been investing and developing host nation network infrastructure for NATO allies and partners. China, through companies such as Huawei, is leading the development of next-generation networking technologies. Russia has shown in recent conflicts that it will target a nation’s network infrastructure to achieve its military goals. Russian political strategy is to expand its control over the strategic industries of countries in its sphere of influence. National network infrastructure will be considered strategic in the next conflict. Adversarial access to a host nation’s network infrastructure threatens the MPE and NATO’s ability to operate as a unified alliance. NATO must develop a strategy for a unified response by its member nations to protect their network infrastructures against unsecured network equipment of adversarial countries. NATO should also invest in options to provide secure communications for future mission partners which may have already sold control of their national network infrastructure to an adversary. MORE

China Arctic Cyber Espionage

August 7, 2021 — China is one of the most pervasive actors conducting global cyber espionage, activities that have resulted in two indictments by the U.S. Department of Justice. One thing is clear – if a target or subject area is in China’s strategic interest, it is likely that some level of cyber espionage is being levied against that target, as well as any organization involved in that subject. While reporting by the many countries bordering the Arctic on Chinese cyber-espionage has been limited, given China’s high interest in the Arctic, and its espionage proclivities, China’s activity may well be either undetected or under-reported. MORE

Attack-Based Network Defense

August 7, 2021 — The Department of Defense Information Network–Army (DODIN-A) is one of the largest and most complex networks in the world, and commanders are struggling to determine the effectiveness of their defensive posture as threat actors constantly attack the unclassified and classified networks. To gain a shared understanding of threats across its Defensive Cyber Operations–Internal Defensive Measures (DCO-IDM) and the cybersecurity community, the Army must establish a catalog of known and unknown threat techniques. This catalog would provide a list of analyzed threat techniques and potential mitigation actions so that Army forces spend less time reacting to the results of exploitations and more time defeating malicious actors. The catalog would also provide the foundation to support persistent penetration testing to provide a mechanism to find overlooked weaknesses, and to train analysts with real-world vulnerabilities. With this methodology in place, an Attack-Based Defense would establish an objective and quantifiable way to assess the effectiveness of cyber forces, inform commanders on how to employ cyber forces, provide business metrics for where cyber forces can improve, and ensure a common incident response across the enterprise. MORE

Outsourcing War to the Machines: The Military Robotics Revolution

August 7, 2021 — Professor Paul J. Springer’s book Outsourcing War to Machines: The Military Robotics Revolution “seeks to provide context to the rise and deployment of military robotics. It raises issues with the legality and morality of using these advanced systems and critiques the ways in which they have been used in recent conflicts” (3). This includes, but is not limited to: discussion regarding some of the very first machines deserving the title of “robot,” case studies on robotic applications in the last few decades, speculation surrounding the role of military robotics in the future, and analysis of moral and ethical arguments concerning the use of lethal force by an autonomous system. In all, Springer leaves absolutely nothing out within these pages and provides an extremely thorough overview on the entire history of military robotics. MORE

The Cyber Defense Review: Cybersecurity within a Pandemic Environment

May 18, 2021 — Welcome to the COVID-19 Special Edition of The Cyber Defense Review (CDR). In this issue, we are examining how the pandemic has impacted cybersecurity, and how pandemics may impact it in the future. The genesis of this issue occurred in early Spring 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic was emerging, infection numbers were rising, and the world began shifting to a telework-focused workplace to mitigate the spread. Immediately, the cyber threat space became much more complex as attack surfaces multiplied. Organizational information security officers and IT departments had to immediately focus on employees’ home systems, networks, and Internet Service Providers (ISP) while maintaining the security of existing company networks. Teleconference capability providers, such as Zoom, instantly became household names and experienced unprecedented growth (Zoom, for example, saw a 30-fold increase in its use), and Virtual Private Networks became commonly used among the growing teleworking population. MORE

COVID-19 and the Cyber Challenge

May 18, 2021 — Over the past year, a massive public health crisis has gripped the world, fundamentally changing the way individuals and entities work and interact with one another. This global pandemic has also caused new cyber threats to surface, along with the expansion of existing threats from criminal organizations and nation-states as well. This introductory piece sets out some of the key threat vectors in the cyber domain specific to COVID-19 that have emerged in the past year. It also highlights some potential paths forward to mitigate the risk presented in this new environment, including implementing critically important public-private collaboration to mitigate threats going forward. MORE

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