Air Force Document Outlines the Cyber-Space Battlefield

Common assumptions about space and time may have to be abandoned to effectively fight a cyber-war, Air Force document finds.

by / October 28, 2010
Internally Created

The Air Force has published a document that defines the battlefield of cyber-space and how the country might fight such a war.

The document Air Force Doctrine Document 3-12, Cyberspace Operations was published this month. It was approved by the LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education at Maxwell Air Force Base.

The 62-page paper’s target audience comprises those primarily concerned with protecting military technology and information. It contains a wealth of cyber-space and security-related information, including definitions and explanations about cyber-warfare.

The document claims that successfully operating in cyber-space and conducting cyber-warfare “may require abandoning common assumptions concerning time and space.” Attacks are anonymous, cloaked, destructive and frequent — coming as often as “millions of times a day, 24/7,” according to Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff.

The report stresses that the military shouldn’t try to defend the entire cyber-domain just as the Air Force doesn’t try to defend the entire sky. Safeguarding efforts should only be limited to what’s relevant to operations.  

They include recommendations on how government IT should conduct cyber-space operations, including both offensive and defensive maneuvers.

“Cyber-space operations offer unique military challenges,” and include “mission assurance, a compressed decision cycle, anonymity and the attribution challenge, and various threats inherent to cyber-space itself,” according to the document.

The “attribution challenge” refers to the fact that it’s often difficult to prove and identify that an action in cyber-space was done by a particular actor, whether it’s an individual acting alone or a coordinated cyber-attack emanating from a government or organization.

The Armed Forces launched the U.S. Cyber Command in May in an effort to combat and prepare against the emerging threat of cyber-warfare and cyber-terrorism.