US military to send cyber soldiers to the battlefield

Cyber defense operations at the US Army Communications-Electronics Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, US. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Army will soon send teams of cyber warriors to the battlefield, officials said Wednesday (Dec 13), as the military increasingly looks to take the offensive against enemy computer networks.

While the army's mission is generally to "attack and destroy", the cyber troops have a slightly different goal, said Colonel Robert Ryan, who commands a Hawaii-based combat team.

"Not everything is destroy. How can I influence by non-kinetic means? How can I reach up and create confusion and gain control?" he told reporters.

The cyber soldiers have been integrated for six months in infantry units, and will tailor operations according to commanders' needs, said Colonel William Hartman of the army's Cyber Command.

The army has for the past three years conducted training for such operations at a huge centre in southern California.

Hartman didn't give details on what the cyber troops can achieve, except to say that they would be scooping up information or intercepting planned attacks.

According to the New York Times, Cybercom has previously placed "implants" in Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group networks that let experts monitor the group's behaviour and ultimately imitate or alter commanders' messages so they unwittingly direct fighters to areas likely to be hit by drone or plane strikes.

Another technique likely being employed is a common type of cyber attack known as a denial of service.

Cyber Command had previously been a subordinate part of the US Strategic Command, but US President Donald Trump in August ordered the Pentagon to elevate it to its own command, in a sign of its growing importance.

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