The US Cyber Command has a new leader. Lt. Gen. Stephen G. Fogarty assumed command of U.S. Army Cyber Command on June 1, 2018. His mission is to make Cyber Command more aggressive in its response to cyber-attacks on assets in the United States. The official terminology is “defense forward,” which is mil-speak for hacking back or even pre-emptively hacking first. Up until lately, this sort of activity required approval by the National Security Council. Recent changes by the Trump Administration have loosened the rules of engagement to allow CyberComm to act quickly and autonomously. I guess we will see how that works. I have to admit, when you are fighting a war, it sucks to wait for permission.
Targets include the usual suspects: China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, of course. But this new posture means we may be attacking the Internet infrastructure of an NATO or other ally if the cyber attack is originating from resources located there. Which does happen. On the “head’s you win” side, there are definite benefits to being able to respond quickly to emerging threats, especially since cyber-attacks can happen very quickly and scale up rapidly. But the “tails you lose” side, could happen if the Cyber Command responds in a way that has negative impacts on innocent bystanders (Oops, hey guys, I think we just turned off the lights in Paris), what is known as collateral damage. Or maybe they just get it wrong entirely, and attack the wrong people.
It will be interesting to watch how this eventually plays out in the real world. My hope is that there will be some restraint, and a process to determine whether, when and where to “defend forward.” This is the military, so I imagine we can expect that. I’ll keep my fingers crossed anyway.