Proactive Defence Tactics Against On-Line Cyber Militia

There is a developing trend of “popular” cyber campaigns that mirror political, economic or military conflicts in cyberspace. The Estonian case from 2007 showed that a whole nation-state can be affected by cyber attacks, whereas the Georgian case of 2008 is an illustration of a cyber campaign that mirrors an armed conflict. In both cases at least part of the attacks were likely committed by patriotic hackers – volunteers who use cyber attacks to take part in intra- or international conflicts.

In such cyber conflicts usually only the targets are known while the aggressors remain anonymous. It is often difficult to discern where state capability ends and independent patriotic hacker groups begin. Furthermore, it is relatively easy to form a new cyber militia from people who have little prior experience with computers. The author defines cyber militia as a group of volunteers who are willing and able to use cyber attacks in order to achieve a political goal. He further defines on-line cyber militia as a cyber militia where the members communicate primarily via Internet and, as a rule, hide their identity.

What the newly-minted cyber warriors may lack in skill and resources, they can often compensate with numbers. However, even an ad-hoc cyber militia that is not under direct state control can be a useful extension of a state’s cyber power. On the other hand, they can also become a threat to national security. Due to the global nature of the Internet, this threat is most likely coming from multiple jurisdictions, which limits the law enforcement or military options of the state. Therefore, other approaches should be considered.

In order to understand the potential threat from cyber militias, either ad-hoc or permanent, we need to explore how they are organized. The author provides a theoretical overview of a specific type of on-line cyber militia and then propose tactics to neutralize it. The tactics are based on a proactive defense posture and primarily use information operation techniques to achieve the effect from within the cyber militia itself.

Published in: Proceedings of the 9th European Conference on Information Warfare and Security, Thessaloniki, Greece, 01-02 July.

Ottis, R. (2010). Proactive Defence Tactics Against On-Line Cyber Militia. In Proceedings of the 9th European Conference on Information Warfare and Security, Thessaloniki, Greece, 01-02 July. Reading: Academic Publishing Limited, pp 233-237.

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