Power projection in cyber space

How many technical glitches in the digital world are actually the result of cyber attacks we didn't know about?

The term power projection has been around for decades. U.S. Department of Defense has defined power projection as the ability of a nation to apply all or some of its elements of national power. Elements of national power include political, economic, informational, or military force.

You don’t have to go very far to see these elements in use right now. Current headlines are chocked full of examples of how nation’s leverage these elements as a mechanism of influence, and the current activity has intensified the research and development of cyber weapons.

Now try to apply power projection in cyber space. The definition doesn’t fit too well. I started out calling this cyber soft power projection, and that evolved as cyber weapon capabilities increased and the cyber threat domain changed. Consider this aspect of the problem: virtual-states have the same opportunity to use cyber to inform, influence or force decisions and demonstrate the virtual-state’s power.

The differences don’t stop there. Consider the fact that oftentimes cyber attacks are not really visible to the public. If anything, all they know is something didn’t work. When a cyber attack takes down an element of critical infrastructure (like online banking) it is much more public, but easily explained away as a “technical glitch.” If you think about it, explaining away a cyber attack as a technical glitch among all the real technical glitches that the online world experiences would not be that difficult.

Now consider all the technical glitches that we have experienced or heard about in the past year. How many of those were actually cyber attacks? We may never know. With all the recent talk of cyber war and all the cyber attacks that are said to have taken place, one has to wonder how much we don’t know? All indications are the answer is...a lot.

Follow Kevin Coleman on Twitter @KGColeman.