Army readies offensive cyber attacks

Senior Army officials said Tuesday that it is working to develop the service’s offensive cyber warfare capabilities to go along with its cyber security capabilities to allow soldier to launch as well as detect and defeat threats.

Military service leaders have spoken in detail about their ability to protect their networks. They have repeatedly avoided discussing growing offensive capabilities to utilize against enemies.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made the first cyber policy speech by a defense secretary earlier this month in New York City where he warned Americans that ignoring growing cyber threats has made the U.S. vulnerable. He made it clear the U.S. military, along with partners in the private sector, were fully ready and capable of bringing the battle to any one launching a cyber “Pearl Harbor.”

The Defense Department routinely repels thousands of attacks daily, some by rogue hackers interested in testing their skills but others pose more serious threats from state and non-state actors.

None of the services have taken the lead in cyber warfare. Officials have discussed here at the AUSA conference that the Army is interested in taking that lead now through U.S. Army Cyber Command.

Since it was stood up in 2010 it has developed capabilities and a growing force of cyber warriors through its Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, Army Intelligence and Security Command, 1st Information Operations Command (Land) and the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber).

Its ranks currently include 21,000 soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and contractors.

Officials developing the Army’s cyber warfare capabilities liken it to a period 20 years ago when service leaders began to learn to use space as a platform. The difference is that the U.S. doesn’t have 20 years, because of the numerous cyber threats that already exist and threaten U.S. national security, Campbell said.

“It’s got to happen right now. So we got to make sure it is ‘operationalized’ throughout the force from a leader development standpoint,” Campbell said.

Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell Jr., commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, Texas, said the Army must work out where “the release authority” should be at different command levels to take offensive action.

“We’re going to have to, as a service and as a military, decide what levels of permission can go for what,” he said.

U.S. Army Cyber Command does not see its role as a defender or attacker operating only from a higher headquarters location. The Army’s strategy demands presence “in two domains – cyber and land,” said Lt. Gen. Rhett A. Hernandez, the head of U.S. Army Cyber Command.

Just what capabilities eventually will reside with commanders closest to the action “still has to be determined, based on what kind we want them to have and what capabilities we may be able to produce,” he said.

Asked whether a platoon leader may one day be able to call up for a network attack the way they call in artillery or air support, Hernandez was not able to say.

“I’m not there yet or ready to go that far, but I would focus on what you can do to protect first, and second what they can do to help them continue to operate,” he said. “And then after that I’m not ready to say what might be next,” he said.

About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.
  • Vaporhead

    Honestly, how many different “Cyber Commands” do they need? Guarenteed none of them are talking to each other either. The DoD and the Intelligence community are still so compartmentalized that it’s another 9/11 waiting to happen again.

    • cyberservices

      Wrong. All of the services Cyber Commands are centralized on Fort Meade, the home of US Cyber Command. DoD is (based on my knowledge) better at bridging the compartmentalization gap than say CIA and DoD or FBI and CIA.

      • Willie Woolford

        We are at least on track addressing the needs of our Cyber community. I work for Bellevue University who has developed an undergraduate and graduate degree program in Cybersecurity (
        We welcome input from the cyber community to help us keep this training/education current, relevant, and in focus to our cyber community. For information, contact me at

      • notstandardcyber
  • blight_

    The new 802.11 grenade will attack enemy wifi hotspots and bring them down, infiltrate connected machines and use the zombienet to attack local ISPs…

    • blight_

      This just in, the new grenade is a 802.16 device trying to pair with nearby computers, an 802.11 device trying to attack via wireless…and comes with a USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt, Lightning and Ethernet adapters for physical attacks.

      Lockheed Martin would be happy to sell you some for 20,000 each…

  • Ben

    I was under the impression that the USAF was our lead cyber branch. You know, “Fly, fight and win in air, space, and cyberspace.”

    • Big-Dean

      no, each service has it’s own support cyber command, but there is a joint cyber command that each service is a part of

      its funny how the air force makes this one of it’s main missions when its a minor thing will the other services

      • MHC

        Is that going to bE call JCOC pronounced jAy-Cock :)

    • T Leon

      You do mean the USAF 754th ESG?

  • indianmedicine

    A “Joint Command” that did over see Air,Land, & Sea EW Offensive & Defensive Measures is a plausible concept. The Joint Services would be compelled to speak Operationally to each other – negating the Question of “Centralizing” a Command Structure. Each Branch of Service would continue to be responsible for their respective Areas of Interest – yet an Association Matrix would develop out of Rediness necessity.
    Historical Inter-Service Rivalry would be set aside for The Combined Arms Approach as a Joint Service Approach and permit Branch Specific needs being operationally addressed.

  • blight_

    To be fair, they want some kind of rudimentary cyber attack/defense equipment and personnel within the branch, which isn’t a bad idea. The Navy and the Air Force theoretically are responsible for their own base security, instead of depending on the army for it.

    However when it comes to attack, it’s hard to say just what kind of attack the Army intends to use. Is the army going to attack military targets, for example some kind of attack on enemy TOCs? If you’re talking attacks on civilian/industrial targets, an independent specialized cyberoffense branch would be more appropriate.

  • Big-Dean

    We need to brag up the other services to sound like the air force in this area, how about ;-D

    The Marine Corp- “The few the proud the cyber-ass-kickers”
    The Army- “An army of one cyber-soldier”
    The Navy- “A global force for cyber-sea-land-and space”

    • blight_

      Navy: From the Sea…a DDoS!
      Marines: The Few, The Proud, The Leet.
      Army: Linux Strong, Army Strong

      • ForCom5

        hahaha…oh man. That was good.

  • Rob

    This article hints we have little or no cyber attack capability as it is now??

    Truth is most of the cyber attacks are done by civilian not military…

    If some basement hacker can tap or infect a system then so can any foreign military or civilian.

    Eastern & 3rd world countries have drained millions if not billions out of the west in the past decade and little or nothing was ever done about it.

    Our public is our weakness. Many run weakly secured computers.

    Many business sector cyber attacks never get on the news either.

    Anyways, if anything we should test cyber capabilities with all allies to find each other’s weaknesses and improve the system period.

  • indianmedicine

    A “Joint Command” that did over see Air,Land, & Sea EW Offensive & Defensive Measures is a plausible concept. The Joint Services would be compelled to speak Operationally to each other – negating the Question of “Centralizing” a Command Structure. Each Branch of Service would continue to be responsible for their respective Areas of Interest – yet an Association Matrix would develop out of Rediness necessity.

  • Bob Hanna

    I have an idea that might be worth pursuing. There are thousands of retirees that have computers and have access to the internet. They probably use the internet no more than about four hours per day…..These computers could be used by the military to attack attackers while they are not being used…which would be probably twenty hours a day or so…..Our society is very computerized and has much more capability than is being used. I would have no problem offering to the military my unused internet time.

    • blight_

      You’re offering your computer to a government sanctioned zombienet?

      • VRecho

        “Who is to say that your Internet ready device / smart phone does not already offer that to departments in the DoD?”
        Said in conspirator voice. :-)

    • Rob

      I think about things like this all time. Being that we are at odds and even war with various groups with cyber capability and internet access, we could do so much more to help the war effort.

      I’d donate my off work time and computer for anything like this. Anytime

  • Chris

    The Army is changing the name of the battlespace to Cyberland and the Navy is changing it to Cybersea

  • blight_

    One day, representatives from the services were blindfolded and went out to touch the Internet.

    The Soldier said, hey, this feels like it has parts that belong on land. Responsibility goes to the Army.
    The Sailor said, hey, fiberoptic trunklines pass under the water. Responsibility to protect cyberspace goes to the Navy.
    The Airman said, hey, the Air Force controls satellite communication, and communication is part of the internet. Cyberspace goes to the Air Force!
    (Of course, the Marines had other things they would rather do, and will be happy if the Navy does it for them)

    • Robert

      CIA operative said, I have to retrieve AQ’s computers after every special op. These guys do more damage to America then anyone else. Responsibility is all ours, please raise our budget & give us more drones commander. .

    • Devil Dog


  • Big-Dean

    What we need is a cyber militia

    After all a “well regulated militia” is Constitutional (not like 90% of our current government)

    So we would form cyber militia groups of civilians who’s job is to defend our country, after all, a cyber attack is just another means of attacking a nation. So these militia groups would be made up a hacker types with backgrounds in cyber security. They would have communications with various government and civilian organization who will advise them if they are being attacked. The cyber militia will then go after the attackers where ever they are located.

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