U.S. Military dropping ‘Cyber Bombs’ On ISIS For The First Time
What is seen as a new tactic in its war against the Islamic State, the National Security Agency’s (NSA) Cyber Command unit is looking to increase cyberattacks against the terrorist organization, reported the New York Times on Sunday.
The military’s six-year-old Cyber Command unit is working to disturb the Islamic State’s ability to communicate with one another, potential recruits online and circulate orders online. The militant branch of the NSA has previously been focused on China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.
“We are dropping cyber bombs,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work told the NY Times. “We have never done that before.” The campaign has been conducted by a small number of “national mission teams,” newly created cyber-units loosely based on Special Operations forces.
Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has also spoken of the new cyber warfare initiative saying it is designed to “overload their network so that they can’t function” and “interrupt their ability to command and control forces there, control the population and the economy”.
While the US officials refused to discuss the details of their operations, interviews done by the NY Times with more than a half-dozen senior and midlevel officials indicate that the effort has begun with a series of “implants” within the militants’ networks in order to study the behavior of members, with the eventual aim of mimicking them to alter their messages and redirect militants in a way that will leave them exposed to U.S. ground or drone operations. The report also suggested American operations could help officials disrupt electronic money transfers.
ISIS is undoubtedly one of the most sophisticated militant groups in the world, using a wide array of digital technologies to not only run its operation but also attract new recruits. The militant group’s activities have caught the ire of hacking collective Anonymous. Last year, Anonymous declared a cyber war on ISIS and continues to attack the militant group.
In a video posted on YouTube in November, Anonymous member said, “Expect massive cyberattacks. War is declared. Get prepared. Anonymous from all over the world will hunt you down. You should know that we will find you and we will not let you go.”
Since then, Anonymous members claimed to have exposed or taken down numerous accounts allegedly connected to the ISIS. The hacking collective has also exposed some e-mail addresses and other information. On the other hand, ISIS has called Anonymous “idiots,” arguing that its activities would do nothing to stop its activities.
During a news conference in February the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, stressed the need for the element of surprise in such attacks.
“We’re trying to limit their ability to conduct, command and control, limit their ability to communicate with each other, limit their ability to conduct operations,” he said.
“I’ll be one of the first ones arguing that that’s about all we should talk about … We want them to be surprised when we conduct cyber operations.”
Neither there is clarity as to how effective the attacks have been until now, nor is the U.S. saying how well its activities are disrupting ISIS efforts. However, one thing that is very clear is that the cyber war with the ISIS is on.
The Department of Defense did not immediately reply to request for comment on the NY Times report.
The author Kavita Iyer
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