Countering Hybrid Threats in Cyberspace

1.   Countering Hybrid Threats in Cyberspace Abstract: For almost two decades, cyberwar has posed various challenges to military organizations. Doctrine has hardly defined the scope of cyber activities and how military forces can act or react in that specific new battlefield. Highly technical by nature, the cyber defense mission was, at first, to counter major cyber threats, thus the focus was, and is, to protect critical infrastructures and networks. Building up a cyber force was, therefore, a move to militarize cybersecurity by transferring methodologies and skills. But the reality of cyber conflict undermines the idea of the unique technical roots of cyber warfare. Most of the strategists and military experts considered cyberwarfare as a force multiplier in the global reshaping of the military affairs. Preparing for a “cyber Pearl Harbor” we have missed the overall picture where State and non-State actors use cyber tools to conduct their global information war. This paper proposes a broad overview of the concept of hybrid threat and how it applies in cyberspace. Built to counter a major cyberattack against our National Critical Infrastructure (NCI), most of the cyber forces are not well adapted to face the guerilla style warfare imposed by our adversaries. Based on recent lessons learned, this paper enlightens the challenges and opportunities of countering hybrid threats in cyberspace. Keywords: Cyber Operations, Hybrid warfare, information operations.   2.   Introduction There is, so far, no clear definition of the ‘hybrid threat’ concept in Western military institutions although there is no longer any debate about the reality of its existence in cyberspace. Whether one refers to the 2006 Israeli – Hezbollah...

Urban Warfare and Lessons Learned for Cyber Operations: Developing a New Tactical Approach

What is it like to fight in cyberspace? Almost every paper regarding cyberwarfare depicts a battlefield, wild and open, where “cyberwarriors” move like a hunting pack; smart, sharp and agile. Reality is obviously far from that. Thus, the digital battle is usually compared to what happens in real life and the strategic approach of cyberspace stresses the parallel with the open spaces and naval theories. It may seem relevant up to a certain point, but at the tactical level, we surely have to change our mind, and start to think “outside the box”. Leaving aside the maritime and romantic vision of cyberspace and the so-called “pirates”, this paper highlights the links between cyberwarfare and urban warfare. From an army perspective, it might be interesting to understand how modern land forces have shaped their structures and developed new tactics and new skills to face global challenges. Over the last 40 years, armies have had to quickly adapt themselves to the new tactical environment: from the first Gulf war to Afghanistan and Mali, most of our (French) military commitments were counterinsurgency-like and urban warfare (and sometimes both). Indeed, the tactics and techniques of cyberwar, and especially its offensive component, reveal many similarities with urban warfare. There is de facto the use of a very similar vocabulary: breaching, penetration, perimeter, access and access control. Thus, breaching a network or an information system can be compared to the assault of a built up area. In both cases, the attacker has to deal with a highly stressful environment; he cannot control every parameter. Moreover, he usually has to maneuver in a blind context due...