Cyber Militia · Cyber warfare · Hackers

On a US Cyber Militia

switzerland (Photo credit: siette)

I received a call yesterday about cyber militias, associated with the US government.   The person who called had served with me on one of those exploratory efforts regarding cyber militias previously and it was almost humorous to hear my words come out of his mouth. Apparently my fear of the perception by the media struck a loud tone, not easily ignored.

Recently, on a LinkedIn forum,  I referred to the Swiss model for a cyber militia.  As many of you are aware the Swiss have a ‘home guard’, where all citizens are trained, armed and sent home packing their own individual weapon.  Each has the responsibility to secure their weapon, practice periodically and are subject to recall to defend their country.  Basically they go home, stay in shape and wait.  The Swiss trust their people and according to propaganda from the US gun lobby, the crime rate in Switzerland is extremely low.  Now the Swiss are standing up a cyber command and they say their cyber warriors will be armed in a similar fashion.

Why wouldn’t this work in the US and other countries?

First, we don’t trust our people as much as the Swiss.  That is the nature of our culture, especially in the US. We are more paranoid, cynical and negative.  We tend to micromanage; unless we can physically check to see someone’s weapon is in a safe or in a holster, we tend to disbelieve they have adequate security on a weapon.

Second, our military culture works in a hierarchical fashion.  The idea of sending someone home with a weapon supplied by the government just reeks of a lack of control.  It is centralized planning and decentralized execution, which we teach in special forces training but the vast majority of people are weaned on conventional military tactics – keep your weapon in an armsroom, complete with guards, alarms and checklists.  God forgive us if we carry a weapon like a police officer, at all times.

Third, playing towards our feelings of paranoia, we believe if someone takes a weapon home they will experiment with it, play with it and probably do something illegal.  At least that is what the media will probably say.  The media tends to have a liberal bias in the US, basically anti-gun, so the idea will be politically unpalatable (distasteful).  Given the opportunity the media will most likely blame hacking incidents on a cyber militia member.

So what’s a guy or gal gotta do to get past these obstacles?  First, we need a leader who has the backbone to declare “We need to do this, we trust our people, we trust their training and it’s good for our nation”.  State this up front, put on a media blitz, don’t hide, advertise the truth. Advertise to other nations that what you seek to attack is no longer centralized but widely distributed.  We, the US, can’t be easily beaten down.  If any of us are not wiped out in the initial cyber attacks, we can continue to attack and defend.  It will be almost impossible to launch a deadly cyber attack against the US and cause significant damage.

I think we can do it. Count me in as one of the first volunteers.

4 thoughts on “On a US Cyber Militia

  1. A lot of comparisons are made with America and European countries with respect to how we operate without taking size and population into account. I am a gun owner and a big supporter of the 2nd amendment, but I strongly believe the Swiss system would never work here. The population of America is so much larger than the Swiss, and quite frankly there are too many dumb-asses here to trust everyone with a gun as a militia. Although I do believe there are enough gun owning Americans that any invading country would hurt very badly for every mile of American soil they gain. Imagine an invading army using the Mexican border and trying to get through Texas alone.

    Also, you are absolutely spot on regarding the media. If we trained a cyber militia to respond to cyber attacks by other countries, the media would immediately blame the militia for any event. The media doesn’t exist to report the news, they exist to get ratings. The new HBO series “The Newsroom” highlights this unfortunate fact. Hyperbole and sensationalist headlines are the norm, rather than straight up reporting.

    All that being said, I do believe the government could and should form an agency set up to train citizens to react to cyber attacks. I would be the second to volunteer right after you.

    1. Good point, Greg and please let me respond.
      I’m not saying every citizen should be armed as a cyber-militia member. I agree, that would be ridiculous. But I do believe it would be more than possible to arm people trained in using cyber-tools provided them, they would know where to get updates, download new tools, would be involved with periodic education, perhaps become involved in exercises, and so on. Setting up checks and balances are simply a matter of a common sense policy, updating as necessary and not over-reacting.
      The press. Oh goodness. That is precisely why I wrote what I did. In this case, truly, one must be inside the OODA of one’s potential adversary with the truth. The basic tenets of Col. John Boyd have never rung as true as is needed in this case. More than anyone else, a great information strategy must be mapped out ahead of time, otherwise all the conspiracy theorists, fear-mongers and anti-cybersecurity and big-brother kooks (we know who you are) will seize the initiative and destroy a good thing with bad press. A prime example of this is the Office of Strategic Influence, destroyed by a jealous official in the Pentagon in 2002 with false accusations and access to the press. OSI did a great job and has been proven to have been effective and perfectly legal and above board but someone on the OSD staff got their panties in a knot and yelled ‘fire’ in a figurative theater.

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