Cyber defense Florian Gaertner | getty images

The Online Fight Against ISIS

Even as the US carries out aerial bombardments in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State may be preparing to retaliate on another front. By taking the battle into cyberspace, ISIS would gain many of the advantages of asymmetrical warfare – unless the US organizes itself to counter the group’s efforts.

WASHINGTON, DC – Even as the United States and its allies carry out aerial bombardments in Iraq and Syria, their target, the Islamic State (ISIS), may be preparing to retaliate on another front. By taking the battle into cyberspace, ISIS would gain many of the advantages of asymmetric warfare – unless the US organizes itself to counter the group’s efforts.

The entry barriers to cyber warfare are remarkably low, even for non-state actors. Even if ISIS does not currently have the capability to carry out cyber-attacks, it is unlikely to find it difficult to recruit followers with the requisite expertise; in the past, other terrorist and insurgent organizations, including Al Qaeda, have done just that. There are bound to be cyber mercenaries, sympathizers, and freelancers available if the price is right.

Experts have cautioned that ISIS could strike unprotected infrastructure or private residences. Hundreds of thousands of industrial and commercial control systems, including the rapidly growing Internet of Things, are leaving ever-wider swaths of everyday life vulnerable to disruption. And far more troubling is the warning by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit devoted to strengthening global security, that many civilian and military nuclear facilities are inadequately protected against cyber-attacks.

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