“As long as human beings have killed one another, theorists have struggled to forecast the nature of future slaughter correctly. Military futurism, however, is different from more popular forms of futurism. Speculation about future warfare inevitably garners more attention than debates over the nature of technological change and human civilization. One reason may be that people are particularly attuned to matters of life and death. But an emerging technology or social change may have just as” much long-term impact as a new kind of weapon or tactic. So why does Patton always flatten Schrödinger and his cat under his tank treads?”
A valuable insight by Adam Elkus, a co-blogger of mine at Dreaming 5GW, on the difficulty of peering into the crystal ball to determine the future of anything, much less warfare. I personally favor the approach of trying to find those elements of warfare that don’t change, that remain constant independent of technology or social change, to use as the basis for theory. I think this is one of the strengths of the XGW framework, that you can take any given situation in any given era and use the XGW framework to classify the gradient of the methods being used, the doctrines behind them, and judge if the response was appropriate or not, and if not, to use the framework to suggest what reaction could have been more effective.
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.