The United States is preparing to start a new front in its war against the Islamic State. President Barack Obama has directed the Cyber Command – a department dedicated to cyberwarfare – to begin operations targeting ISIS computer networks to disrupt terrorist operations.
This new campaign is aimed at crippling the terrorists’ communications capabilities, limiting their ability to coordinate movements and reducing their online reach. It will also target Islamic State administrative capabilities, which the US hopes will prevent the group from paying its fighters.
America’s cyber-operations against the Islamic State have thus far been confined to surveillance efforts through the National Security Agency (NSA); while the Cyber Command was more concerned with dealing with the source of cyberattacks on America. These were mainly suspected to be state sponsored actors from China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
It was only after President Obama questioned his staff as to why they weren’t deploying these capabilities against the world’s most dangerous terrorist organisation did the target shift.
The Islamic State has been known as one of the most tech savvy terrorist groups in the world. It often uses the internet and social media to communicate with followers; and even hides on encrypted instant messaging apps like Telegram. These Western based companies are often faced with a race to shut down terrorist accounts, but ISIS has proven adept at directing followers to newly created accounts.
Whether the Cyber Command’s efforts will have any effect on the Islamic State is unknown. Cyberattacks of this kind are rare, and the effectiveness has not been fully tested in the real world. That being said, Russia utilised a deadly combination of cyberattacks and real world troops during its the Russo-Georgia war in 2008. Which resulted in the annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from the Eastern European country. A result that only goes to show that there is potential for the US Cyber Command’s efforts in tackling the Islamic State problem.
[Source: New York Times]