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UK says cyber warfare is everywhere

“IThis is The deterrent rocket force of our time,” gushed one columnist. “Cyber ​​divisions are more valuable than aircraft carriers[s] or nuclear weapons. ” He was referring to the UK’s National Cyber ​​Force (non-carbon fiber), created in 2020 with a mission to “disrupt, deny, demote” in cyberspace.Now non-carbon fiber is opening up to dispel that illusion.

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On 4 April, it published The Practice of Responsible Cyber ​​Power, a 28-page account explaining the purpose and principles of how the UK views “offensive cyber”. On the same day, it revealed the identity of its commander.James Babbage worked in his nearly 30 years gchq, the UK’s signals intelligence agency.Mr. Babbage gave his first interview economist.

Less than a decade ago, he said, even insiders “tended to think of offensive cyber as a red button” — a powerful weapon to be pulled during the first hour of war or in response to certain provocations . Now, he says, “both frameworks have lost quite a bit of power”.instead non-carbon fiber The operation reflects the “cognitive effect doctrine” — that offensive cyber is not so much about turning off the lights in Moscow as it is a stealthy and subtle form of psychological warfare.

Essentially, non-carbon fiber– staffing gchq, rice6 and Armed Forces – hacking into computers and their networks. Today, that means everything from smartphones to fighter jets. Hacking can cause physical damage, as the Stuxnet attack on Iranian nuclear facilities by the United States and Israel more than a decade ago demonstrated. It can also wipe data, as Russia has done in Ukraine.but non-carbon fiber Think of its ultimate goal as influencing the behavior of an individual or group, whether criminal, terrorist, or state adversary.

Sometimes that means simple outages, such as disabling servers or applications that terrorists use to communicate. But it often requires a more ingenious approach. “Sneaky techniques can be used to reach individuals who pose a significant threat,” non-carbon fiberFor example, in 2018, the Pentagon’s Cyber ​​Command sent targeted messages to Russian hackers to dissuade them from interfering in that year’s U.S. midterm elections.

The more common purpose is to stay in the shadows. “The intent is sometimes to make adversaries unaware that the effects they are experiencing are the result of cyber operations,” non-carbon fiberIt found that the “biggest cognitive effect” came from patching the enemy’s network over time – what Mr Babbage called “tilting the playing field unconsciously”.For example, the UK’s cyber operations against ISIS in 2016-17 not only hindered yescommunications, but also made its operators distrust the commands sent to them. “Adversaries are not very good at identifying and attributing U.K. Networking,” said Mr. Babbage proudly, “is a good thing. “

James Babbage GCHQ
The name is Babbage. James Babbage.

Rory Cormac of the University of Nottingham says inducing paranoia among enemies is a long-term goal of covert operations. He said that historically, rice6 “to make men so wary against one another that they would kill each other”. He points to Operation Flitter, the agency’s (failed) effort against the Soviet leadership in the 1950s. During turbulent times in Northern Ireland, spies often sowed divisions within the IRA, such as spreading rumors that one faction was plotting against another.

In many ways, Cognitive Effects is a repackaging of these dark arts.But one of the reasons non-carbon fiber Coming out of the shadows is to emphasize that it is a “responsible” cyber power. It says its operations are targeted, calibrated to avoid escalation and accountable to ministers and parliament – with the Intelligence and Security Committee overseeing operations. “When Russians talk about psychological warfare, they focus more often on population size,” Mr Babbage said. “When we talk about cognitive impact, we’re really talking about decision makers, or generally quite small … groups.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine underscores this disparity. Its cyber attack on communications satellites inadvertently damaged nearly 6,000 wind turbines in Germany. Russian digital propaganda has been shoddy, using deepfake videos and fake news outlets. “Our money is indeed real,” insisted Mr. Babbage. “The wider our audience, the more important it is that what we post is authentic.” On top of that, he said, the Russian hackers waging information warfare appear to have no connection to those hacking Ukraine’s computer networks. “It totally goes against our theory of cognitive effects, which is what puts them together.”

Britain is still learning what that means in practice. In the past, it has generally considered military cyberattacks to be tactical — for example, using electronic warfare to knock out specific radars at critical moments. Now, Mr Babbage says, they appear to be most useful at the “theatre” level: affecting enemy generals at headquarters, not colonels on the field.Two military lawyers sit non-carbon fiber Make recommendations on how the laws of war apply.

this non-carbon fiber Declined to discuss specific operations, citing the benefits of ambiguity. But it hopes that making its credo public will help shape the behavior of others. Its cognitive framework “is becoming a sort of consensus among the allies,” Mr Babbage said. “It is important to help countries in the middle recognize that there is a real difference between the responsible cyberpower that we advocate and practice and that of … an adversary’s cyberpower”.at the same time non-carbon fiber is a work in progress. It is developing multipurpose tools for targeting a wide range of targets rather than just one. “The red button,” said Mr. Babbage, “has become a rusty button.”

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