Tactics is the employment of units in combat. It includes the ordered arrangement and maneuver of units in relation to each other, the terrain and the enemy to translate potential combat power into victorious battles and engagements (FM 3-0).

trojan-horseTimeo Danaos et dona ferentes.

(I fear the Greeks, even bearing gifts.)

-Aeneid (II, 49)








In Cyber, Time is of the Essence

Cyber is becoming increasing driven by automated process while humans are still operating at human speed. In my view, one of the major weaknesses in larger-scale cyber defense planning is the perception there is time to lead a cyber defense during attack. It is likely that a major attack is automated and premeditated. If it is automated, the systems will execute the attacks at computational speed. In that case no political or military leadership would be able to lead an effective defense for one simple reason – it has already happened before they react. A premeditated attack is planned maybe years in advance, and if automated, the execution of a massive number of exploits will be limited to minutes. Therefore, future cyber defense would rely on components of artificial intelligence that can assess, act, and mitigate at computational speed. Naturally, this is a development that does not happen overnight. In an environment where the actual digital interchange occur at computational speed, the only thing the government can do is to prepare, give guidelines, set rules of engagement, disseminate knowledge to ensure a cyber resilient society, and let the coders prepare the systems to survive in a degraded environment. Another important factor is how these cyber defense measures can be reversed engineered and how visible they are in a pre-conflict probing wave of cyber-attacks. If the preset cyber defense measures can be “measured up” early in a probing phase of a cyber conflict it is likely  the defense measures can through reverse engineering become force multipliers for the future attacks – instead of bulwarks against the attacks. So we enter... read more

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... read more

Paradoxes of (Cyber) Counterinsurgency

Abstract The U.S. Army’s Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, broke the mold for Army doctrine, providing insights into counterinsurgency operations that were largely unknown to U.S. military professionals and offering techniques that could be applied at both the operational and tactical levels to improve local conditions. The manual also highlighted the complex nature of counterinsurgency operations, providing a list of paradoxes, or seemingly contradictory truths, that highlight the difficulties inherent in this type of military operation. Many parallels can be drawn between counterinsurgency and cyber operations, and practitioners of both face challenges even more complex than those encountered in more traditional, kinetic military operations. Herein we provide a list of cyber paradoxes in the spirit of the counterinsurgency paradoxes given in FM 3-24. Through these paradoxes, we hope to highlight the inherent complexity of cyber operations and provide insights to those who hope to be successful in this new operational domain. Introduction The publication of the Army’s Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, in 2006 was a watershed event in the history of US Army doctrine. Previously published Army manuals, and much of the doctrine published since, tends to take a very high-level view of military operations. Written largely for senior officers, these manuals often provide lots of theoretical background with little practical applicability. Many military practitioners see them as abstract tomes handed down from the ivory tower of the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate at Fort Leavenworth, KS. Many Army officers even pride themselves in having avoided reading most of the doctrine that underpins their profession. The new counterinsurgency manual was different. The primary authors were then Lieutenant General David Petraeus and... read more