Daesh Urban Cyber Warfare
Urban fighting is a violent and difficult method of warfare. That tactics are different and the presence of civilians complicates the battle plans and operations orders. Civilians are difficult to discern from armed combatants. The fields of fire are limited in scope, clarity and distance with much of the fighting occurring house-to-house and hand-to-hand. This type of warfare is slow and deadly for all involved. The terrain is strewn with booby-traps, IEDs, and snipers. Urban fighting usually provides the smaller, weaker, guerrilla forces an advantage against larger adversaries. They use ambush tactics and hope to drive the larger force to leave through attrition. Larger forces usually need to engage with more manpower. A house once cleared may be reoccupied. The ability for both sides to blend in adds to the complexity.
In the case of Daesh and their use of Social Media, we are fighting a cyber-urban war. We have funneled them to the major social media sites where they have established a strategic media plan being executed with perfection. The ubiquity of the Internet and overall globalization provide the perfect cyber safe haven for Daesh. The recruitment of well-educated and young extremists with cyber skills has driven the center of gravity to the main social networking sites. We have allowed Daesh to move into cyber urban areas such as YouTube and Facebook. We have allowed them the advantage of detailed local knowledge of these cyber urban areas. We are exposed when we traverse the cyber urban streets and are easily detected as many are unfamiliar with Daesh sites, methods and protocols. Daesh has multiple methods of access to and from these sites (use of anonymity) and shifts its battle positions from one account to another. Daesh can easily resupply their content with new data instantaneously with write once publish many toolsets.
We are fighting a cyber-urban war and therefore going house to cyber house in this battle. The reason we are playing the urban warfare whack-a-mole is due to allowance by Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and other Social Media sites for Daesh to create a cyber safe haven and, the desire by many to maintain that status quo. The problems is, we are not gathering enough actionable data through these sites to warrant continuing this effort (in my estimation).
If we force these sites to shut Daesh down and, guide Daesh to a cyber-rural area potentially controlled by and/or managed by the intelligence community (IC), then we can remove the need for extensive urban warfare. We may be able to remove the activities of cyber security firms without proper tradecraft skills from entering this area of cyber operations. At the very least, we take Daesh from the cyber headlines and control the message. These social media sites all have algorithms to detect cyber personas and violations of terms of service. We have seen this recently with Facebook and the personas of drag queens in San Francisco. Shutdown can be automatic. Daesh is using social networking due to the great political, strategic, and communications importance this media provides. They have the cyber advantage.
A redirect however subtle can and should be employed to drive them out of the cyber safe haven limelight and into a rural area rife with chokepoints. We heed to shift the center of gravity to a more advantageous location. We need to direct them to this cyber axis of advance analyzing their avenues of approach with more clarity since the populace in these areas is minimized. This further enables the IC to gather intel, removes some of the Daesh PR machine, forces social media sites to follow their own rules (although they love the revenue generation that the Daesh click through brings to them), and manipulates cyber locations that eventually could be terminated. All easier said than done but the current counter-messaging efforts is not sufficient. Further to, using standard competitive intelligence methods with a cohesive and integrated marketing campaign across all the major social networking sites, (if the above activities are executed), fills the content void created with the intended information. The counter-messaging is then the primary message lessening the Daesh PR effort. (NOTE: Boots (intelligence gathering) on the ground will not supplant cyber intelligence – HUMINT is a required factor, often seen as outdated yet without it, we rely on cyber actions. Cyber actions that have led us to this point in our dealings with Daesh)
Plan of Attack
Based upon their current performance, we should take the role of countering Daesh completely out of the hands of the government. The government is under too many restrictions, lack of speed and a lack of understanding of how to establish a competitive landscape. This needs to be looked at coldly and objectively. If we are competing for airtime and messaging with a competitor, do we hire the government to respond for us? Of course not but government organizations believe they can respond. We must hire the best minds available and let them work their magic on a global scale.
- Quickly engage a few of the top competitive analysis and only marketing firms
- Assess the competitors identify them and the voice they use
- what is working well and why
- why are you losing your ‘customer’ base
- Determine who their fan base is
- Determine what social networking sites they utilize
- What type of content are they posting, how often and when
- examine hashtags, twitter bots, twitter ‘hivemind’ usage
- analyze retweets and reposting’s
- analyze endorsements and ‘sponsorships’
- listen to the online gossip associated with your competitor
- establish counter messaging that offers something better
- follow their followers
- friend their friends
- join their groups
- poach them redirect them
- Use technology to respond automatically around the clock
- Use technology to devise your own message
- They are using mostly US made technologies to drive their messaging (YouTube, Google Groups, Facebook, Twitter, JustPaste.it, SoundCloud, etc.)
- Most of their social networking sites violate terms of service on these social networking sites Force these companies to shut them down pay them to do so if necessary replace their messaging with ours
- Flood the market with content from all over the world in multiple languages
We treat Daesh’s use of the Internet like they were something special. They are not. Their use of the Internet is not. We need to develop a strategy for use of the internet executing this strategy with precision. We need to develop a counter message by using professionals and that does not mean the Government (State Department as an example) running the show. Thank you but it is not working. We need a creative group to look at this as if your company were to go under should you not regain market share over the next 6-12 months.
In closing, the move to cyber rural areas should be followed by both mitigative and retributive counterstriking that eliminates the cyber safe haven. Any less a follow on strategy and the adversary will reconstitute.