On the battlefield, cyber is just new weapons payload

A recent report from the Center of Strategic International and Strategic Studies identifies the ways in which cyber can be used in a military context.

New technological developments have always shaped and altered military operations, whether it was the rise of air power beginning in World War I or the steady growth of submarine technology. Today, it is the emergence of cyberspace as a fourth domain of operation that has changed the game, as a recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies points out.

Titled “U.S.-Japan Cooperation in Cybersecurity,” the report focuses on the United States’ relationship with Japan, particularly with regard to Japan’s potentially belligerent neighbors, but it also details how the cyber element has become inseparable from military operations.

“No modern military can expect to operate successfully without cyber capabilities for both defense and offense,” report author James Lewis, director of the strategic technologies program and senior Fellow at CSIS, wrote. “Similarly, no country can perform its national security and public safety functions without adequate cyber capabilities.”

The emergence of cyber capabilities has enabled militaries to open a new “attack surface,” with greater exploitation of adversarial information and capabilities, Lewis writes. But while cyber operations are a military reality—and the debate over what constitutes an act of cyber war continues—a cyber attack is unlikely to happen in a vacuum.

“Cyber attacks have both tactical and strategic uses, in some ways similar to missiles or aircraft that can be launched from a distance and strike rapidly at a target,” the report states. “A pure cyber war, using only cyber attacks, is unlikely. No nation will launch a destructive cyber attack or engage in a pure cyber war, because a cyber attack by itself is more likely to annoy an opponent than to defeat it. We are likely to see a true cyber attack (rather than espionage or coercive political acts) only in the context of a larger military conflict.” Cyber tools can best be summed up as new weapons payloads.

Cyber has already been used to great effect in beginning and augmenting traditional military campaigns by Russia, which used cyber to kick off its incursion in Georgia in 2008 and its covert seizure of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.

As for potential action against the United States, Lewis said the most likely use of cyber attacks will be against the software that enables advanced weapons, logistics systems as well as the computer networks for command and control. “The goal will be to create uncertainty in the minds of opposing commanders, leading them to be slower and more cautious in their decision-making.  Weapons and sensors may not work as well as intended or at all after opponents manipulate their software,” he writes, adding that China has already made robust efforts to gain insight and information into advanced naval and air systems, such as the Patriot air and missile defense system, the Standard Missile surface-to-air system, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and air defense radars.  “While there have been efforts to repair the damage created by Chinese penetrations, it is possible that China retains some ability to degrade the performance of such systems in the event of conflict.”    

Attacks such as those against Office of Personnel Management databases, which do not necessarily destroy infrastructure or inflict damage or loss of life, have created a great deal of ambiguity with regard to response. The United States is enjoined in collective self-defense treaties with various partners, including NATO nations to Japan. The ambiguity surrounding the definition of a cyber attack has obscured what type of an incident might trigger such mutual defense obligations. Lewis, however, notes that NATO has agreed to a general understanding that cyber incidents with equivalent effects as kinetic attacks – those causing physical damage or casualties – represent a use of force.   

While it’s likely Russia possess destructive cyber capabilities – on par with the Stuxnet virus that disrupted Iran’s nuclear processing – and China is already capable of such attacks, Lewis said it’s unlikely that the variety on non-state actors out there have the resources to do the same.

As for Japan, the primary focus of the report, Lewis wrote that greater U.S-Japan cooperation is important given that “the most active cyber adversaries are Japan’s neighbors – China, North Korea, and Russia.” But Japan’s cyber capabilities need to improve in order for a full defense partnership with the United States to exist in the future. 

The two countries have been working together on the cyber domain. Back in April, the U.S. and Japan inked a diplomatic and military agreement that, among other things, bolstered information sharing as it relates to cybersecurity in both the government and private sectors. 

 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.