Persistent Engagement in Cyberspace

The United States government has described the intent to “defend forward” against continuing espionage, disruption, and destructive intrusion campaigns executed by hostile actors in cyberspace. This defense concept will reportedly leverage cyber capabilities and other response options to blunt ongoing threats through action in gray space, closer to hostile systems and networks. Accepting the prospective counter-cyber operations mission will likely require substantial changes to the posture of the cyber mission force in order to ensure capabilities to deliver effects on demand to deny and degrade hostile intrusion and attack against friendly, allied, and partner interests. Continuing uncertainty regarding possible scope, capacity, and optempo for countering operations further complicates consideration of this mission. We shall explore a variety of models by which counter-cyber operations may be executed, and consider the differing resource demands and impacts that may result from different campaign designs. Further, CCO options do not occur in a vacuum – it is anticipated that the adversary shall react to active defense measures. It therefore is vital for intelligence professionals and operations planners to develop effective approaches for estimating adversary adaptive capacity, and thus the potential courses of action that may be pursued by hostile actors in response to countering pressures. We shall outline factors contributing to and inhibiting adaption under persistent engagement, and analyze interactions between competitor and countering forces across multiple scenarios.