The 2000s saw the first global cyber attack with the release of ILOVEYOU, a computer worm that infected millions of computers around the world in an effort to steal passwords and allow its creator to access the Internet for free. Over the next ten years newspapers reported China’s infiltration of US and UK defence networks, Russian attacks on Estonia and Georgia, and North Korean denial of service attacks on South Korea and the US.
However, it wasn’t until the 2010s when cyber attacks (or “offensive cyber operations” to the military) really burst into the mainstream. This article reviews offensive cyber operations over the past decade and identifies thematic objectives: it identifies case studies for each and considers what the military can learn from them.
While each of the case studies has their own lessons, each share a key theme: they demonstrate that cyberspace is a key element of the battlespace, and effects launched from, or occurring within, cyberspace easily have an impact outside of it.