The goal is for ISIS not to know the difference between a cyber attack and just needing to reset their router.
ISIS has been successful at recruiting supporters in large part because of its well-oiled social media machine, which cranks out PR-type content that encourages militants to attack non-believers.
So what’s the best way to throw a wrench in it? If you’re an average citizen, you might participate in Troll ISIS Day on social media.
But if you’re the U.S. military, you launch sophisticated cyber attacks that target the heart of the clandestine organization’s networks.
At a briefing this week, top military brass revealed that the U.S.
Cyber Command is hard at work disrupting ISIS’s communications networks.
It’s an emerging war strategy in the Middle East, and it comes from a relatively new agency—Cyber Command was established in 2009.
The goal, according to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, is to overload ISIS’s network so that it can’t function effectively.
“This is something that’s new in this war,” he said. “It’s not something you would’ve seen back in the Gulf War, but it’s an important new capability and it is an important use of our Cyber Command and the reason that Cyber Command was established in the first place.”
He was tight-lipped on the specifics of the cyber attacks, except to say that the military wants to “overload [ISIS’s] network so that they can’t function.” But he explained that the cyber strategy essentially shadowed the military’s conventional operations, which are designed to isolate various ISIS cells in Syria and Iraq to make it difficult for them to coordinate attacks.
There is one key difference between conventional and cyber attacks, though: the element of surprise.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, who was also at the briefing, said the most critical part of hacking ISIS networks is that the source of the attacks is untraceable.
“Most importantly, we don’t want the enemy to know when, where, and how we’re conducting cyber operations,” he said. “They’re going to experience some friction that’s associated with us and some friction that’s just associated with the normal course of events in dealing in the information age.
And frankly, we don’t want them to know the difference.”