Unconstrained Cyberspace Domain

Back in 2007, U.S. Air Force officials openly stated that cyberspace as a war-fighting domain. At that time the statement attracted little attention. Today, cyberspace has rapidly evolved into a key domain similar context to land, air, and sea for military conflict. This evolution has occurred at a pace few had anticipated.  The US Department of Defense defines cyberspace as a “domain characterized by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) to store, modify, and exchange data via networked systems and associated physical infrastructures.”

Given the metrics listed to the left, it is hard to consider cyber space as anything but an unconstrained domain. The question for U.S. military and government leaders is: How to update current operational policies and doctrine? Because the implications will be profound. There are many shades of gray when it comes to act of cyber aggression when you consider law enforcement, homeland security and national defense and intelligence.

Operations and warfare in cyberspace encompass a substantial number of elements in technology and society as well as in the government and private sector. What we must do in a timely fashion is close the gaps in policies, regulations and definitions that currently exist between military, law enforcement, the federal government, civilian authorities and private organizations. The unique modalities of operations in cyber space make this the most difficult domain in which to resolve international disputes and conflict. The big policy questions are, when do cyber attacks, cyber spying and espionage cross the line into the war-fighting realm and who is in charge of a cyber event until attribution can occur?

The prominent research path seems to look at the impact of a cyber attack and the amount of cyber force used to as the primary factor in determining if the act or acts rise to the level of an act of war. Given the nature of the Internet, an international doctrine vetting process must be employed so that a common understanding and decision framework covering what it means to conduct war in cyber space. Finally there is a tendency to evaluate and create cyber warfare doctrine in isolation. 

The cyber space domain enables military action in the other domains of land, sea, air and space and therefore the doctrines must be fully integrated. Offensive cyber space operations can be conducted at all levels of conflict and across the conflict spectrum including counter terrorism operations to achieve established objectives. A few years ago U. S. Strategic Command began to develop tactics, techniques, and procedures as well as other operational concepts designed to integrate offensive, defensive and intelligence cyber space capabilities into cross-mission strike plans. The development and integration of cyber warfare doctrine should be considered as an opportunity to drive tactics, processes and procedures to coordinate the employment of cyber weapons as a mechanism of support across all domains of conflict.

We don’t have much time for research on this topic. There are already tension between military objectives, intelligence-gathering requirements and law enforcement efforts. A formal doctrine must be in place given the increase in cyber attack frequency, complexity and impact that we have seen over the last few months. 

Internet Metrics

  • By the end of 2010 there will be over 1.9 billion Internet users worldwide.
  • By the end of 2010 there will be over 100 billion email per day.
  • By the end of 2010 there will be over 3.3 billion cell phones users with Internet access.
  • By the end of 2010 there will be over 265 million web sites.
  • By the end of 2010 there will be tens of millions of non-tradition computing systems connected to the Internet.
  • By the end of 2010 there will be over 130 million blogs.
  • By the end of 2010 there will be over 34 billion images uploaded on Facebook annually
  • In 2009 a new piece of malware was released on the Internet every 1.25 seconds.
  • In 2009 there were 90 trillion emails sent over the Internet with an estimated 81 percent being spam.
  • In 2009 YouTube served over 1 billion videos per day on average.
  • In 2009 there were over 1 trillion unique URLs in Google’s index.
  • In 2009 there were over 47 million new web sites added.
  • In 2009 approximately $27 billion was spent online from November 1st through Christmas Eve.

 — Kevin Coleman

  • J_E

    Sorry for the negative comments:

    .. but ABL shoots down its first missile today and this site doesn’t even mention it.. instead more of this cyber bs. this isn’t defense, this is IT, and there are already plenty of boring IT blogs out there that knowledgeable (boring) IT people read. At least no defense fashion (eg camo) posts today (yet..).

    Anyone have suggestions as far a good website on cutting edge defense technology?

  • Ptsfp

    Money and intelligence is the lure behind hacking. Hackers are selling Botnet software (like Zeus) for anywhere from $500 – several thousands. Some of the older version are available for free.

    With botnet software, hackers can suck important data off PC’s, view what you are viewing on your screen, change what you are seeing and even use your machine to attack others.

    Kevin is right, the US is playing catch up in defending against these threats. We are in more of a containment mode than an advancing mode. To fight these threats, the US needs a consolidated, unified plan of action. Each government group responding individually will create a stovepipe effect that will hinder our response and defense.


    • Kevin



      Each government group is already creating a stovepipe plan for cyber and already is hindeing our response and defense. It is a classic POWER GRAB attempt.

  • Ptsfp

    The problem too is that some of these agencies that are grabbing cybersecurity roles don’t have the manpower for it.

    One computer company that I worked for used to report computer crimes to the FBI. We were basically told that they had bigger fish and it probably wouldn’t be looked into, but they would try.

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  • Lou

    Curious as we approach an information density level to enable “the Singularity” to move from a sci fi concept (a la Charles Stross) to a more mainstream prediction.

  • Dave

    Where did these Internet metrics come from? Who published this information?

  • Kevin I appreciate the context you provide and the use of those stats to characterize the scope of things we are dealing with. Another important stat, I think, is the number of cell phone subscriber accounts, which is estimated at 4.6B by the end of 2009. To me, all of those are connected to the Internet, but I think the point of the stat you mention above is some have data plans and a more direct connection.

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