U.S. politicians have long threatened America’s enemies with tanks, planes, submarines, and nuclear missiles. Last week defense secretary Ashton Carter leveled a new kind of threat at the Islamic State: hackers. It may signal the start of a new era in warfare and international relations.
There have been leaks about how the U.S. government used the Stuxnet malware to attack Iran. And the U.S. government has enlisted the help of social networks to combat ISIS propaganda. But the Pentagon has not talked openly about using such techniques in war.
Carter broke that silence in a briefing with reporters last week. He said that the U.S. Cyber Command was attacking ISIS communications networks in support of efforts to help local forces take back the cities of Mosul, in Iraq, and Raqqa, in Syria. Cyber Command was established in 2009 and is made up of groups from the various military branches.