“… the United States (US) Department of Defense (DOD) is responsible for defending the US homeland and US interests from attack, including attacks that may occur in cyberspace. … the DOD seeks to deter attacks and defend the US against any adversary that seeks to harm US national interests during times of peace, crisis, or conflict. To this end, the DOD has developed capabilities for cyberspace operations and is integrating those capabilities into the full array of tools that the US government uses to defend US national interests…”
The Department of Defense Cyber Strategy, April 2015
While disinformation campaigns waged by state actors, criminal groups, and terrorist organizations have become familiar stories, little is discussed or understood about comparable operations conducted every day by Western countries’ militaries and intelligence organizations. While the emphasis on these operations are directly attributable to their respective sources (e.g. that people know they come from the military), units are specializing in marketing, ads, information, and even disinformation work to support broad and specific missions at home and abroad.
These US military units operate, out of necessity, outside the public eye, but some of the tools, strategies, and methods that they use are emerging into the public eye, and often the cause of severe collateral damages to the innocents. Military units members used an arsenal of tools (weapons) to allow mass email delivery, spoof SMS messages, impersonate social media posts (e.g., Facebook, Instagram), change online poll results, and artificially increase website traffic.
Their targets ranged from China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, countries across Africa, and areas within their own country. The necessity of this kind of cyber information warfare poses many problems, especially for democratic governments, who must walk a fine line between transparency and authoritarian behaviour.
The US DOD like many other countries’ military developed its own cyber and hybrid warfare strategies and this publication “Cyberspace Operations” provides an overview of the joint doctrine to plan, execute, and assess cyberspace operations.
Download a copy here: https://fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/jp3_12.pdf