Pentagon confirms cyberwarfare against Islamic State

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  March 1, 2016 at 8:22 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 1 (UPI) -- The Pentagon announced U.S. commanders launched a cyberoffensive against the Islamic State in Syria for the first time recently by using military hackers.

The hackers, who work from Ft. Meade in Maryland, target Islamic State computers and cellphone networks. The offensive marks the first significant integration of the U.S. Cyber Command into a major battlefield operation since it was established in 2009.

Secretary of State Ashton Carter's disclosure of launching a government-sanctioned cyberattack is also the first time any country has publicly acknowledged instigating cyberwarfare.

Carter spoke from the Pentagon on Monday of some of the strategies and goals of the United States' cyber effort against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, Daesh and ISIL.

"In the counter-ISIL campaign in -- particularly in Syria -- to interrupt, disrupt ISIL's command and control, to cause them to lose confidence in their networks, to overload their network so that they can't function, and do all of these things that will interrupt their ability to command and control forces there, control the population and the economy," Carter said. "So this is something that's new in this war... but it's an important new capability and it is an important use of our cyber command and the reason that cyber command was established in the first place."

Speaking after Carter, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said secrecy about the operation was needed to prevent the Islamic State from adapting. He likened the effect of the cyberattacks to the strategy used on the ground.

"The secretary has talked a lot about physically isolating ISIL. In other words, isolating Raqqa, [Syria], isolating Mosul, [Iraq], keeping the lines of communications between the two being separate, dividing Iraq and Syria up, making life difficult for... ISIL," Dunford said. "I think conceptually, that's exactly the same thing we're trying to do in the cyber world. In other words, we're trying to both physically and virtually isolate ISIL, 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."

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