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Cyberspace operations now officially has a physical dimension, meaning that the United States has official military doctrine about cyberattacks that also involve an actual human gaining physical access to a piece of computing infrastructure.
A revised version of Joint Publication 3-12 Cyberspace Operations—published in December 2022 and while unclassified, is only available to those with DoD common access cards, according to a Joint Staff spokesperson—officially provides a definition for “expeditionary cyberspace operations,” which are “[c]yberspace operations that require the deployment of cyberspace forces within the physical domains.”
“Developing access to targets in or through cyberspace follows a process that can often take significant time. In some cases, remote access is not possible or preferable, and close proximity may be required, using expeditionary [cyber operations],” the joint publication states. “Such operations are key to addressing the challenge of closed networks and other systems that are virtually isolated. Expeditionary CO are often more regionally and tactically focused and can include units of the CMF or special operations forces … If direct access to the target is unavailable or undesired, sometimes a similar or partial effect can be created by indirect access using a related target that has higher-order effects on the desired target.”
“Allowing them to support [combatant commands] in this way permits faster adaptation to rapidly changing needs and allows threats that initially manifest only in one [area of responsibility] to be mitigated globally in near real time. Likewise, while synchronizing CO missions related to achieving [combatant commander] objectives, some cyberspace capabilities that support this activity may need to be forward-deployed; used in multiple AORs simultaneously; or, for speed in time-critical situations, made available via reachback,” it states. “This might involve augmentation or deployment of cyberspace capabilities to forces already forward or require expeditionary CO by deployment of a fully equipped team of personnel and capabilities.”
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.