While Electronic Warfare has been around for decades, it took the arrival of the “Information Age” epitomized by the Internet for military strategists and tacticians to fully appreciate the impact that disrupting and crippling an enemy’s information infrastructure can have on its warfighting capabilities. In a time when even the most rudimentary organizations employ some type of networking for communications and information-sharing as a means of leveraging resources and enabling real-time analysis, depriving enemies of such assets ensures that they are, to use an old cliché, fighting with one hand tied behind their back.

In the Information Warfare Community, it is CT Sailors—and CT Networks (CTN) specialists in particular—who are tasked with offensive and defensive operations in cyberspace. CTNs work in one of three jobs: Cryptologic Cyberspace Analyst or Operator, or Cyberspace Planner.

As part of Defensive Cyberspace Operations (DCO), Analysts and Operators work together to evaluate the soundness of the defensive posture that has been taken by information networks under their command and use their finding to detect possible network vulnerabilities. It’s the Analyst’s job to then coordinate with DCO partners—which can include third-party hardware and software providers—and the end users on the network to guarantee that no cyber operations take place without full authorization.

Preventing an attack in the cyberspace realm is one thing, but launching one is quite another, particularly in the murky environment warfighters must deal with in the Global War on Terrorism. Carrying out a cyberattack that leads to “collateral damage” to the networks (and livelihoods) unaffiliated third parties could easily lead to soured diplomatic relations and bellicose saber-rattling. So while Analysts and Operators carry out the preliminary work involved in offensive cyber operations—analyzing raw data, determining remote targets and assessing their hardware and software capabilities, calculating the impact the attack will have, and formulating Cyber Operation plans—Planners must maintain situational awareness and make it available to the proper authorities throughout the process. Only when proper authority has been given may the Planner take the final step: Conducting Computer Attack and Network Exploitation Operations.

And the effects of such operations can be as powerful as tactical strikes, at least in terms of how it affects the enemy’s operational footing and capabilities. Such operations have been employed in the ongoing fight against Islamic State, and the subsequent degradation of the terrorist organization’s communications infrastructure has made recruiting efforts and financial transactions incredibly difficult. Used in conjunction with traditional military strikes, the blows unleashed in cyberspace by Cryptologic Technicians have proven at least as effective as they were envisioned when the concepts of Information Warfare were first considered as viable methods of warfighting.

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