U.S. Military Launches Cyberattacks Against ISIS

isis cyber attack mosul CCA hackers
Could the next so-called Islamic State attacker on Western soil be a woman? Pictured: The group's flag. Newsweek Composite

The U.S. Defense Department has announced plans to use cyberwarfare as part of its ongoing operations against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in a briefing this week that cyberattacks will be used to assist Iraqi and Kurd forces to recapture the city of Mosul. It is the first time the U.S. military has openly revealed details of its electronic warfare efforts against ISIS.

Cyberattacks are being used in Mosul to disrupt communications and critical infrastructure in the city, according to the briefing.

Carter said the attacks aim to "interrupt [ISIS's] command and control, to cause them to lose confidence in their networks, to overload their networks so they can't function, and to do all of these things that will interrupt their ability to command and control forces there, control the population and the economy."

Much of the telecommunications infrastructure in Mosul and Iraq was put in place by the U.S. following the 2003 Iraq war, potentially making the job of hacking it easier. Carter did not give specific details about what methods would be used.

He said: "We don't want the enemy to know when, where, and how we're conducting cyber operations. We don't want them to have information that will allow them to adapt over time. We want them to be surprised when we conduct cyber operations."

ISIS has also signalled its intentions to target Western infrastructure, although so far attacks have been limited in scope. The so-called Caliphate Cyber Army (CCA) recently announced plans to take down Google but instead defaced the website of Add Google Online, a small Indian firm that offers search engine optimization (SEO) services to local businesses.

Other attacks by the CCA include a small solar energy company in England, a Japanese dance instructor, and a laminate flooring firm based in Wales.