The Complex

The five deadly Ds of the Air Force’s cyber arsenal

Ever thought the term C4ISR was acronym overkill? Well, here’s another doozy. The Air Force’s fiscal year 2014 budget request includes $11.3 million to develop tools to do, wait for it, "D5." D5 stands for "deceive, degrade, deny, disrupt, destroy." No, it’s not something an awful child does on the playground; it’s what the service ...

U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force

Ever thought the term C4ISR was acronym overkill? Well, here's another doozy. The Air Force's fiscal year 2014 budget request includes $11.3 million to develop tools to do, wait for it, "D5."

D5 stands for "deceive, degrade, deny, disrupt, destroy." No, it's not something an awful child does on the playground; it's what the service wants its cyberweapons to do enemy networks.

Offensive cyber-technologies are being built to allow Air Force cyber operators to secretly infiltrate enemy networks, stay there undetected, steal information, watch what the enemy is doing, resist reverse-engineering should it be discovered, and wreak D5 havoc (cue action-movie music).

Ever thought the term C4ISR was acronym overkill? Well, here’s another doozy. The Air Force’s fiscal year 2014 budget request includes $11.3 million to develop tools to do, wait for it, "D5."

D5 stands for "deceive, degrade, deny, disrupt, destroy." No, it’s not something an awful child does on the playground; it’s what the service wants its cyberweapons to do enemy networks.

Offensive cyber-technologies are being built to allow Air Force cyber operators to secretly infiltrate enemy networks, stay there undetected, steal information, watch what the enemy is doing, resist reverse-engineering should it be discovered, and wreak D5 havoc (cue action-movie music).

Here’s what the service’s program has achieved so far, as described by the Air Force’s budget request:

  • Developed information system access methods and propagation techniques.
  • Developed stealth and persistence technologies and initiated investigation into anti-reverse engineering methods.
  • Developed the capability to exfiltrate information from adversary information systems, developed methods for increased cyber situational awareness and understanding of the battlefield, and developed methods for covert data exchange.
  • Developed technology to deliver D5 (deceive, degrade, deny, disrupt, destroy) effects in concert with cyber platforms.
  • Initiated development of a publish/subscribe architecture for exchange and exfiltration of information while operating within adversary information systems.

What’s left to work on in 2014 besides continuing to develop the capabilities listed above? Start developing a "common operating platform" — the actual computer interface that will allow Air Force cyber-troops to do all of the above.

John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.

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