We have entered a new age of modern conflict. This new age is different from those we have experienced in the past and perhaps even more challenging. The military has dubbed cyber as the 5th domain and have embarked on establishing the capabilities for offensive, defensive and intelligence collection and analysis in this domain.
However, many are attempting to address this threat as they did traditional forms of conflict. Some have gone as far as to compare what has been called a cyber arms race to the cold war. Recent conversations and witnessed actions are cause for concern.
One concern that poses the biggest risk is the force-fitting of cyber warfare into the mental models for traditional forms of conflict.
While this tends to make many feel good because they can more easily relate to the cyber domain, it is far too constraining and the strategies and tactics developed using this path of thinking flawed and inadequate! Just consider how easy it is to obtain cyber attack capabilities.
The second area of concern deals with the classification of cyber conflict as a domain.
This feeds into the first problem of old mental models. The four traditional domains are Land, Sea, Air and Space and the mental models fashion those domains as vertical silos.
Cyber is a domain, a vertical silo in and of itself and conflict can exist strictly inside that domain. That being said, the cyber domain is also a horizontal and can exist and interoperate within the other four domains.
So in all reality cyber is a vertical and horizontal realm of modern conflict and should be treated as such and not force-fit into our traditional ways of thinking about conflict.
Kevin G. Coleman is a long-time security technology executive and former Chief Strategist at Netscape. He is Senior Fellow with the Technolytics Institute where he provides consulting services on strategic technology and security issues. He writes a weekly blog for Breaking Gov on the topic of cyber intelligence.