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The Cyber Defense Review


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Seventh Service: Proposal for the United States Cyber Force

November 14, 2022 — To fight and win in cyberspace, the United States needs a Cyber Force. During World War II, air power tipped the scale of victory in favor of the allies, as aviation proved to be an indispensable warfighting capability. The creation of the Air Force was predicated on the notion that the effective employment air power is not a matter of choice, but the very condition on which national survival rested. Today, cyber superiority has wider implications for US national security than air superiority had at the close of World War II; however, the federal government is not structured to effectively defend the US national interests. The current division of cyber authorities precludes comprehensive mitigation of cyber-enabled malicious activities. To effectively combat nation-state and non-state actors targeting US and allied interests in cyberspace, the US should establish a Cyber Force modeled on the U.S. Coast Guard with a reserve component modeled on the National Guard. Combining these models would allow for a single force capable of executing military operations, law enforcement activities, and intelligence collection at the direction of the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, complemented by an expansive reserve component available to both state governors and the federal government. MORE

Everything Flows: Russian Information Warfare Forms and Tactics

November 14, 2022 — This case study builds on previous analyses of Russian information warfare and covers the forms and tactics in simultaneous campaigns in Ukraine and the US between 2014 and 2020, using Daniel P. Bagge’s DOPES methodology to discern and analyze patterns within events data from the two campaigns. Use of DOPES illustrates that Russian information warfare possesses discernible forms and tactics across varying contextual situations and is highly flexible. The forms and tactics align with Russian information warfare (IW) doctrine and the goals of reflexive control. The case study concludes with a discussion of strategic and policy level recommendations to counter the effects of Russian IW. MORE

A Military of Influencers: The U.S. Army Social Media, and Winning Narrative Conflicts

November 14, 2022 — In the interconnected era of the Internet, the military must confront the new face of an old threat: narrative conflict. Where states once maintained nearly absolute domestic control of the narratives surrounding their military engagements, social media have created a wide array of perspectives, arguments, and disinformation campaigns that constantly affect both the civilian and military populations. These campaigns encourage the questioning of state objectives and threaten the identity of the individual and the collective ontological identity of the society, making it more difficult for states to maintain momentum and support for their military endeavors. Without that support, military campaigns can collapse, regardless of the skill or preparedness of warfighters. This research explores three topics relevant to the U.S. Army in hopes of helping it better equip itself to succeed in narrative conflicts: the strategic impacts of commander’s decisions on the battlefield, the need to control signals emissions, and the consequences of bulk internet data sales. It then concludes by providing brief policy suggestions for mitigating these issues. MORE

Deterrence Thru Transparent Offensive Cyber Persistence

November 14, 2022 — State-enabled cyber campaigns are achieving cumulative, strategic effects on the United States. A lack of transparency limits offensive cyber capabilities from affecting the cost-benefit decisions of malicious cyber actors. However, recent operations suggest the United States can positively attribute malicious cyber activities, impose significant consequences with offensive cyber force, and translate those actions into deterrence of specific malicious activities using public communication. Persistent, public disclosure is necessary for offensive cyberspace operations to deter malicious cyber activities, nested with US strategic guidance, and achievable based on recent cyberspace operations. Transparent Offensive Cyber Persistence combines persistence with post factum, public disclosure of the justification, targets, and impacts of offensive cyber force, exchanging information for deterrence credibility. This work evaluates its suitability, acceptability, feasibility, and risks. Transparent Offensive Cyber Persistence exploits the relative advantages of offense in cyberspace to impose costs directly on malicious cyber actors, compel targets to defend everywhere, dissuade other actors, set a legitimate narrative of consequences for unacceptable malicious cyber activities, and shape international norms. MORE

Ethical Assessment of Russian Election Interference

November 14, 2022 — The consistent development of information and communication technologies poses new ethical challenges for military leaders and policymakers in the fifth domain of warfare—cyberspace. This article engages a relatively new ethical framework known as Just Information Warfare (JIW) to assess one of the highest profile instances of information warfare in recent years—Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. First, we define information warfare and describe how concepts from two well-known ethical theories—Just War Theory and Information Ethics—merge to create JIW. Next, we analyze Russian military officers' 2016 election interference efforts and the corresponding US response through a JIW lens. Finally, we offer three key takeaways from our analysis that warrant further thought. MORE

Regulating Cyber Warfare Through the United Nations

November 14, 2022 — Cyber warfare is an emerging type of conflict threatening international establishments such as international humanitarian law and the norms guiding interactions between states. Currently, with no means to slow down their use, the rate at which cyber weapons are being produced and launched between states is growing. One organization that can change that is the United Nations. The United Nations possesses several facilities that make it a powerful tool to address the ever-expanding problem of international cyber security. While other options for imposing regulations exist, state governments should favor the United Nations as the premier platform to address this issue. MORE

Cyberspace in Peace and War, 2nd Edition (Book Review)

November 14, 2022 — Martin Libicki’s Cyberspace in Peace and War (2nd Edition) is a cyberwar strategy masterpiece. At this point in my career, rarely do I read books that are so impactful. Readers of Libicki’s second edition will ultimately understand almost all aspects of deterrence, the shifting thinking on cyberspace-based effects as an element of national power, and whether cyber deterrence is achievable. Most importantly, readers will be treated to a sober assessment of "cyberwar" rather than predictions of an imminent "cyber-9/11" This important difference takes the focus off preventing a single catastrophic event and instead highlights the increasing complexity of executing cyber operations in a world of digital connectivity. Libicki claims this distinction, plus the many actors utilizing cyberspace, causes difficulties in establishing deterrence in and through cyberspace. MORE

Introduction: An Offensive Future?

August 16, 2022 — The recent cyberattacks against Colonial Pipeline and Solar Winds in the United States, the Health Service Executive in Ireland, and extensive and ongoing cyber activity in Ukraine highlight the continuing threats and complex security needs of our interdependent societies. Such operations and attacks are conducted by states that do not claim to possess offensive cyber capabilities, such as Russia and China, or by sophisticated cybercriminal gangs who commonly deploy ransomware, particularly with “hack and leak” operations, to generate an enormous amount of revenue. In response, many states have developed cyber capabilities to address the growing insecurity of states, their citizens, and various communities, with varying degrees of success and organization. Thus, as states have been establishing more assertive responses to malicious cyber activities through offensive cyber forces or units of their own, there has been a concurrent development of connecting this with broader cyber security, resilience, and capacity building, often around the pursuit and projection of cyber power. MORE

Prepare and Prevent, Don’t Repair and Repent

August 16, 2022 — Insurance is often treated purely as a tool to mitigate financial risk. The insured can pay a premium for the confidence that if a cyber-attack occurs, they are indemnified for their losses. This paper advocates that insurance can play a more significant role dealing with offensive cyber, by way of relying upon a reinsurance framework. An appropriate insurance framework which assists a non-state actor before, during, and after an attack can facilitate a coordinated response to supporting a state’s national security objectives. When a state opts to use an offensive cyber operation, there is a risk that the operation will inflict unintended consequences/harms and will trigger a retaliatory attack. The proposed reinsurance framework would assist in improving a business’s resilience and security. An underlying reinsurance regime will ensure the framework transfers risk from a specific business and spreads it across society. This paper argues that by reducing and responding to risks and unintended consequences of offensive cyber operations with reinsurance, a state’s offensive cyber strategy may receive a more favourable reception from society. This reduces the risk that an offensive cyber strategy may delegitimise the state. MORE

Exploit Brokers and Offensive Cyber Operations

August 16, 2022 — A necessary step in conducting offensive cyber operations is developing or acquiring an exploit, i.e., a means for taking advantage of a software vulnerability or security deficiency. While these can be developed within government agencies, they can also be procured from private actors. Studying these private markets present an opportunity to understand offensive cyber operations, especially as markets break from the secretive culture of intelligence agencies. This article provides novel evidence of such opportunities by collecting data in the form of the prices quoted by an exploit broker who claims to sell to governments. We find exploit price inflation of 44% per annum, and higher prices for exploits targeting mobile devices relative to desktop devices. Exploits requiring additional capabilities like physical access to the device are quoted at a discount, and no-click remote access vulnerabilities carry a heavy premium. The broker does not quote prices for any exploits that specifically target industrial control systems or IoT devices. We conclude by discussing how these results inform the future of offensive cyber. MORE

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