DOD may have waged first cyberwar in Serbia

The United States put together its first small group of information warriors, a move that has convinced some Defense experts that the military waged a cyberwar against Serbia this year.

According to a high-level draft briefing paper prepared for Adm. James Ellis, the group of information warriors—or what the Defense Department refers to as an information operations cell—was one of the "great successes'' of the 78-day war. Ellis is commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and of Joint Task Force Noble Anvil—the U.S. component of the NATO nations participating in Operation Allied Force.

According to the draft briefing, information operations (IO) have "an incredible potential" and that "properly executed, IO could have halved the length of the campaign."

A Navy spokesman for Ellis in London declined to say whether the United States engaged in offensive cyberattacks against Serbian computers and command and control systems. Instead, he recited a textbook definition of IO, which included "actions taken to affect adversary information systems'' as well as to defend U.S. systems. Offensive IO actions range from jamming and physical attacks on information systems to computer network attacks.

While the spokesman declined to identify which of those actions the United States used against Serbian information systems during Operation Allied Force, retired Maj. Gen. Doyle Larson, chairman of the Air Force Association, said he doubted that the United States set up an IO cell just to manage the bombing of Serbian computer centers or to engage in traditional jamming of Serb radar and radios.

Larson, who was the commander of the Air Force Electronic Security Command in the 1980s, said he was convinced that the United States used cyberwar tactics to attack Serb information systems, pointing out that the United States "is attacked all the time by hackers."

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