The U.S. government is taking some major steps to increase its digital presence on the battlefield. Military-grade hackers launched an assault against ISIS recently, utilizing denial of service attacks as well as other techniques to overload their computer and cellular networks, according to Government Technology contributor W.J. Hennigan. This marks the first time a country has openly admitted to committing an act of cyberwar.
Of course, just about every nation has been involved in digital surveillance of some kind in the past few years, but this is something different. This event is concrete evidence that cyberattacks can be used in conjunction with troops on the ground to facilitate military victories.
Syrian city taken using cyberattack
The denial of service attack levied against ISIS was used to help friendly rebels retake al-Shadadi. This struck a major blow against ISIS's ability to raise money, as al-Shadadi has a massive amount of oil near it. The taking of this town also served as a choke point for Raqqah, the proclaimed capital of the Islamic State. While this particular cyberattack wasn't alone in helping the rebels – at least 85 air strikes hit ISIS militants in the city – it certainly did a lot to aid the cause by shutting down enemy communications.
Aside from knocking out its ability to direct troops, it would appear the U.S. is also utilizing cyberwar to sow panic and confusion within ISIS's ranks. Chairman of the joint chiefs of staff General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. is especially interested in making sure Islamic State militants are kept in the dark about U.S. activities.
"We don't want the enemy to know when, where and how we're conducting cyberoperations," said General Dunford. "We don't want them to have information that allows them to adapt over time."
More cyberoffense in the future
This successful hit against the Islamic State shows that cyberattacks may play a major role in warfare in the years to come. Regardless, the Pentagon is working to make sure it stays on the cutting edge of the trend. The agency is working to create 133 teams dedicated to cyberwarfare by 2018, according to CBS News. Of these, 27 teams will be trained and deployed specifically for physical combat, using their skills to help fellow soldiers fight troops on the ground.
How these developments will change warfare remains to be seen, but it's clear the U.S. doesn't want to fall behind.