Kevin Coleman is a senior fellow at the Technolytics Institute and former chief strategist at Netscape. (File)
In 2009 I first became aware of individuals looking to establish a cyber militia within the United States. Since then, the idea of a civilian cyber militia has been a reoccurring concept.
Many look at the growing frequency, sophistication and impact of cyber attacks and say this is an idea whose time has come. They also point to how badly the U.S. cyber forces are outnumbered.
Those opposing a cyber militia are quick to point out the risks that would stem from a lack of control over the membership and the group’s actions. Some imagine scenarios in which the militia goes rogue and launches a retaliatory strike, and others warn of a retaliatory strike by individuals within the militia itself on the systems of an unwilling intermediary that has had their equipment compromised.
As soon as the conversation gets going, someone throws out Anonymous as an example of a cyber militia and the debate heats up. At that point, the topic of Iran’s cyber militia and the attacks that have been attributed to that group come up. That discussion is augmented by claims that Cuba uses a cyber militia to distribute disinformation and propaganda as part of the government’s efforts to combat the content generated by “dissident bloggers.”
Recognizing just how polarizing this subject is, there are those in favor of a cyber militia who temper their language and call for the formation of “cyber reserves.” They point to reports that Philip Hammond, the British defense secretary, has openly talked about creating that nation’s cyber reserve force, whose mission would be both offensive and defensive.
So the question that ends up being: Clearly other countries use these militias, so why can’t we? The answer is easy. It is all about having control and coordination capabilities in place that are reliable enough to trust and depend on in times of need.