US military offers first-ever announcement of cyber attack on ISIS

us military admits to engaging in cyberattacks against isis cyber mission unit
Army Cyber / Flickr
Leaders of the Department of Defense have officially revealed that the U.S. military is working with Iraqi and Kurdish forces to regain control over Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, alternatively known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh. This news comes from Defense One, which covered a briefing Monday afternoon where Defense Secretary Ashton Carter finally admitted to military participation in network-based attacks, and that the cyberwarfare operation is ongoing.

This is quite possibly the first time the U.S. has been open about its engagement in an electronic intervention such as this, according to Ars Technica. Where radio jamming has played a major role in U.S. military history, and electronic attacks were conducted against Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War, computer and network-based attacks have largely remained undisclosed to the public.

Not once before has the Department of Defense formally announced a cyber incursion in an ongoing military undertaking.

Offering more thorough commentary on the operation, Carter added that the attacks were initiated “to interrupt [and] disrupt ISIL’s command and control, to cause them to lose confidence in their networks, to overload their network so that they can’t function, and do all of these things that will interrupt their ability to command and control forces there, control the population and the economy.”

Though the U.S. military has historically kept mum about cyber attacks, it hasn’t left itself entirely powerless. In fact, the bulk of Iraq’s telecommunications infrastructure was built by the United States, while repairing the damage from the Iraq War. With it, both the military and NSA were able to collect intel while combating the inevitable revolts.

Nevertheless, despite vaguely revealing to us the military’s participation in the cyberwarfare coalition, the details offered by the defense secretary remain sparse — and understandably so.

“We don’t want the enemy to know when, where, and how we’re conducting cyber operations,” Carter explained. “We don’t want them to have information that will allow them to adapt over time. We want them to be surprised when we conduct cyber operations.

The intent, he said, is to deceive Daesh into thinking its network connectivity troubles are the result of its own indiscretion, when in reality, it’s being targeted by U.S. forces.

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