Pentagon to employ cyberspace for power projection and frustrating adversaries

The Pentagon has released a new military strategy document that outlines its plans to use offensive cyber operations to counter foreign powers and criminals that pose threats to US interests. The strategy, shaped by a study of Russia's actions in Ukraine, recognizes the importance of the US military's hacking capabilities in projecting power but also acknowledges the risks of escalation in cyberspace.

In the new strategy, the Department of Defense emphasizes the need to actively counter US adversaries in cyberspace rather than solely focusing on defense. The release of this strategy comes as US officials have consistently warned about China's cyber capabilities and their potential use in a military confrontation over Taiwan or other issues.

Earlier this year, US officials and Microsoft raised concerns about a Chinese hacking campaign that targeted critical infrastructure providers in Guam and other parts of the US. The new Pentagon strategy echoes these concerns, alleging that Chinese hacking is part of Beijing's preparations for war. It warns that in the event of conflict, China's cyber operatives are likely to target key networks that enable US Joint Force power projection in combat.

In response to these threats, the US Cyber Command has expanded its offensive and defensive cyber forces over the past decade and has used its increased capabilities to target cybercriminals who threaten US infrastructure and elections. However, the strategy acknowledges that offensive cyber operations alone are not enough to deter hacking groups and should be combined with other policy tools such as sanctions and arrests.

Mieke Eoyang, a senior cyber official at the Department of Defense, stated that the US cannot solely rely on defense to address persistent threats in cyberspace. She highlighted the need to disrupt malicious cyber activity directed at the United States and emphasized that the department has already been taking action in this regard.

Overall, the new Pentagon strategy emphasizes the importance of offensive cyber operations in countering threats to US interests but also recognizes the need for caution to avoid unintended escalation in cyberspace. It underscores the concerns about China's cyber capabilities and highlights the importance of a comprehensive approach that combines offensive cyber operations with other policy tools.


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