Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Can hacking be the ultimate Cyber-PSYOP?

The latest outcry about hackers comes from a country long suspected of using cyber means for a variety of nefarious reasons – Russia. On December 2, 2016 CNN published a story: Russia: “Foreign hackers are trying to take down our banks” (see: In October 2016 Sputnik news proclaimed “Russian Foreign Ministry Confirms site Hacked, US ‘Jester Claims Responsibility” (see:; which is also the photo source).

Whether or not either or both of these articles are correct may not be as important as the possibilities the two articles raise.

On one hand, these alleged acts could be the work of US or allied hackers seeking to give Russia a taste of its own cyber medicine. It could also mean that yesterday’s loudspeaker is today’s internet hack so that tactical PSYOP/MISO organizations need to be able to perform some level of cyber PSYOP through Computer Network Attack (CNA).

This would also seem to signal that new forms of Special Operations training for UW should include giving insurgents some cyber capabilities just as SOF trainers have taught UW techniques in the past.

While this is certainly feasible since the nature of internet based attacks is to lower the skill level of the attacker, is it a good idea to spread cyber attack knowledge around? The unintended consequences of sharing knowledge and broadening the skill set of insurgents should be obvious. There is no guarantee that the new cyber warrior wouldn’t turn his or her newly acquired cyber ‘gun’ at you.

We’ve seen how SIGINT made its way out from behind the ‘green door’ and into the planning of tactical units. It’s only a matter of time until some variation of this evolutionary path is taken by cyber as well.

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