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XGW and Cyberwar

Adam Elkus has an article up at GroupIntel called The Rise of Cyber-Mobilization.

This very interesting read links cyberwar with the theories of thinkers like Antoine-Henri Jomini and Alfred Thayer Mahan and got me thinking about how XGW applies to cyberwarfare.

In principle, XGW should be able to describe the doctrines used on any given battlefield and at any level of conflict or confrontation from the tactical to the grand strategic. Some applications of cyberwarfare seem obvious fits into certain gradients. Individuals of groups that engage in vandalism and cybercrime could be 0GW and 1GW respectively. Massive botnet attacks that attack networks on a broad scale fit very nicely into the second gradient. Third gradient cyberwarfare doctrines could act to target very specific choke-points of networks or even to disrupt real-world infrastructure like electrical and communications grids through cyberspace.

Fourth and fifth gradient doctrines seem to be a lot more subtle, crossing from the, relatively speaking, kinetic actions of cybercrime and cybervandalism, into less kinetic actions like subversion and co-optation. These would likely be doctrines that inform activities rarely if ever observed by the average person no matter how technologically connected they are.

At the fourth gradient cyberwarfare doctrines might entail carefully building vulnerabilities into systems that can be selectively targeted to accomplish certain effects all at once that are virtually impossible to react to until after the attack has already occured. For example, creating and distributing a computer virus that penetrates multiple systems and sits dormant until intentionally activated at a particular time to shut down or hijack the networks those systems are linked to. Unlike a brute force botnet attack that overloads the system (very cyber-kinetic), in this case the system is gradually subverted until control of the network is stripped away and/or the system attacks itself.

Cyberwarfare at the fifth gradient might involve essentially shaping networks and systems themselves. It might involve a targeted effort to control cetain types of information or movements in networks or systems. The key at this gradient should be using systems and networks to shape the context of perception in order to affect certain network elements, thought processes, or even feelings of the users of those attached to the network.

It might even try to make you think a hacker can blow up your computer.


3 responses

  1. I would urge you to check out Shimon Naveh’s Systemic Operational Doctrine–which is about altering the relationships among systems rather than destroying nodes to compel outcomes. There’s also a large amount of writing from the mid to late 90s–mainly by Timothy L. Thomas and the concept of “neocortical warfare.” http://www.au.af.mil/info-ops/perception.htm

    02/15/2009 at 6:23 PM

  2. General Naveh seems to be quite a popular figure these days in our corner of the blogoshpere. From what I have read from Zenpundit and Soob he is very applicable to higher gradient thinking. I’ll be sure to follow the link.

    Thanks for the thought provoking article!

    02/15/2009 at 6:32 PM

  3. I was up on Naveh before he became well-known here. The thing about SOD is that it is (on paper at least) the doctrinal method of implementing Boyd. But, here’s the catch–Boyd said “doctrine becomes dogma.” That, and I also have some major criticisms about Israel’s (non)-implementation of SOD. But on the whole I am extremely enthusiastic about it.

    Thanks for the praise!

    02/15/2009 at 6:36 PM

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