U.S. Cyber Command Drops ‘Cyberbombs’ To Combat Growing Global ISIS Threats

In an attempt to kill Saddam Hussein and intimidate the enemy, United States military forces conducted a shock and awe campaign that saw a barrage of bombs dropped on Baghdad and other parts of Iraq over a decade ago. Fast forward to today and the U.S. is still dropping bombs on enemies, albeit instead of explosives they're now of cyber variety.

It's not that the U.S. military lacks explosives, but the landscape is different now, and so is the target. The Islamic jihadist militant group known as ISIS conducts much of its effort online, and that's where they're perhaps most vulnerable. So in addition to using traditional weapons, the U.S. military's six-year-old Cyber Command is for the first time targeting ISIS through cyber warfare.

"We are dropping cyberbombs," Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work said about the new mission. "We have never done that before.


It's part of a new campaign to slow or stop ISIS's online efforts to recruit new members and run its daily operations, such as paying fighters. What's rare about the cyber effort is that U.S. officials are talking publicly about it, at least to a small extent. The dialogue it's having could be part of its strategy, one that's designed to shake the confidence of ISIS leaders who are just now learning that they're a target of a massive and sophisticated hacking effort.

Naturally Mr. Work and others involved in the operation aren't willing to share a bunch of details, but based on the collective information gathered from those who are talking about the cyber effort, it appears that U.S. forces have spies in the ISIS network who are learning how things operate from a militant perspective. The plan going forward is to imitate ISIS commanders with false messages, such as redirecting militant forces to places where they'll be easier to attack, either by drones or ground troops.

That's just one aspect of the cyber effort. U.S. forces are also using cyberattacks to reroute payments and block electronic transfers of funds.

"We're trying to both physically and virtually isolate [ISIS], limit their ability to conduct command and control, limit their ability to communicate with each other, limit their ability to conduct operations locally and tactically," General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said back in February.

Welcome to the new world and new way of conducting warfare, folks.