Friday, February 22, 2019

Cyber Influence: Is it PSYOP or is it Cyber?

One of my sources referenced an article in The Epoch Times (see:, which is also the photo source.)

The lead paragraph sets the stage:
The U.S. military needs to upgrade its psychological operations as adversaries take advantage of cyberspace to ramp up psychological warfare on the United States. Yet the military faces a difficult landscape to up its game, based on remarks by several current and former Special Operations officers.”

While much of it is somewhat ‘old news’, readers may find the Transcript of the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES UNITED STATES SENATE UNITED STATES SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND’S EFFORTS TO TRANSFORM THE FORCE FOR FUTURE  SECURITY CHALLENGES (see: of interest, it’s only 60 pages.

Here are some things that struck me:
1.     The experts quoted are all SOF or former SOF.
2.     There is agreement that there needs to be more effective cyberspace influence operations.
3.     Privacy protections limit influence operation effectiveness.
4.     The Global Engagement Center was funded at $160 million under the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (see:

Here are some items that are missing:
1.     The Global Engagement Center is actually part of the Department of State:
2.     The Global Engagement Center has been criticized and hobbled. Both Vanity Fair and the NY Times have published articles. (see for example: and
3.     The President has given the military more authority to launch cyber attacks. (see:, also a photo source)

If we step back and take a look at the bigger picture, we see that:
1.     There is no overall, government wide cyber influence strategy.
2.     Cyberspace operations or cyber attacks are like the kinetic actions of the physical world, yet there doesn’t seem to be a non-kinetic or influence targeting balance.
3.     Both PSYOP and offensive cyberspace operations seem to be considered as independent, general short term, and perhaps even tactical level operations rather than longer-term operational level or on-going strategic efforts.

As the new Congress settles in and the partisan climate continues, we should be very concerned that the critical nature of Cyber Influence Operations will continue to be ignored. Some organizations are claiming victory in thwarting alleged Russian efforts to impact the midterm elections. Hard to know if they did or didn’t, but rest assured our enemies are busily at work on their operations to influence our Presidential nomination and election process.

Reader comments invited. If you’re attending the RSA Conference in San Francisco, I’m performing on Tuesday, March 05, 14:20

As always, reader comments are encouraged.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Cyber, Cyber Everywhere But Not a PSYOP to Think!

The Army’s Cyber Command (ARCYBER) continues to ‘march’ forward in its mission of bringing cyber capabilities to the tactical CDR. Much as I have predicted, cyberspace operations are following in the footsteps of SIGINT as the migrate from behind the ‘Green Door’ to the field. The trigger for today’s posting is a January 31, 2019 article from the Army which you can see at:, and which is also the photo source.

There are also some parallels to the PSYOP world as reach-back is a key component of the resource.

The article goes into detail to describe “the Cyberspace Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) Support to Corps and Below (CSCB) program created in response to a directive by the Chief of Staff of the Army to build unit cyber capacity and help the Army to operationalize cyber.” The essence of the mission is to develop the organization and reach-back resources needed to support the cyber mission.

But what is the cyber mission? Ultimately cyber, like any other battlefield system, must focus on making the CDR more successful. Clearly ARCYBER is well positioned to throw electrons around the battlefield, but what about ideas and impacting behavior?

Once again, I’m more than a little concerned that there does not appear to be any attention paid to the concept of “Cyber Influence”. CDRs must dominate the information domain – which is more than cyberspace but impacting the space between ears of the enemy.

The real cyber-battlefield is for “hearts and minds.” Our enemies are good at this as shown by Russian voter influence and ISIS propaganda. US efforts don’t appear to be nearly as successful. This session will explore the fragmentation between cyberspace operations and Psychological Operations (PSYOP). I will be delivering a presentation on Cyber Influence at the RSA Conference in San Francisco on 5 March 2019, you can see a sneak preview of my talk at: