On the Integration of Psychological Operations with Cyber Operations

From the folks at Lawfare an important contribution to the discussion about the execution of information activities at US CYBER Command and in the Army’s Cyber Command.  This is a follow-up to the article by the Washington Post in December and the NPR story last September both highlighted in this blog.

This discussion will continue and the organizations will evolve with closer integration of the various organizations responsible for legacy and future information activities.

An excerpt:

Instead, I want to raise a question of comparative institutional expertise within the U.S. government. Since Cyber Command’s inception, it has specialized in the conduct of cyber operations (and thus has concentrated on acquiring the technical expertise that such operations require). I have the utmost respect for the technical talents of those at Cyber Command, but they have not recruited for expertise in psychological operations. Even today, a scan of jobs available at Cyber Command reveals many jobs requiring technical expertise or background and zero jobs requiring psychological expertise or background.

How can cyber operations be regarded as psychological operations? A plausible answer to this question is that cyber operations are important instruments through which psychological effects can be generated. The Defense Department definition of psychological operations (or military information support operations, as they are now known in the department’s lexicon) is the conveyance of “selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals in a manner favorable to the originator’s objectives.” Glowing Symphony activities conveyed selected information (information causing glitches in information technology) to foreign audiences (Islamic State network and cyber operatives) to influence their emotions (the Islamic State operators become angry and frustrated), motives, objective reasoning (when frustrated, calm and objective reasoning is difficult), and ultimately the behavior (Islamic State operatives become less efficient and effective in performing their own cyber missions) of foreign organizations (the Islamic State) in a manner favorable to the originator’s objectives (i.e., the anti-Islamic State objectives of the United States).


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