In a speech on Wednesday, the Australian government revealed that it’s been engaged in a targeted cyberwar against ISIS.
“Just as the Coalition forces were preparing to attack the terrorists’ position, our offensive cyber operators were at their keyboards in Australia — firing highly targeted bits and bytes into cyberspace,” said Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) Director-General Mike Burgess, who runs the agency’s cyberwar efforts, during a speech.
As part of the offensive, Burgess said, ASD operatives posed online as ISIS leaders to obstruct recruiting efforts and disabled ISIS communication systems. In a puzzling digression, he also pushed back against cliches about hackers.
“There’s always a geek — invariably a guy — wearing black and working in low-lighting, instantly hacking into systems at will,” Burgess said. “Usually, they are cavalier — with no regard for the law — punching the ‘enter’ key to blow up buildings or do impossible things with electrical surges. The real hackers in ASD couldn’t be further from this stereotype.”
Burgess talked about disabling enemy communications and remote operatives helping coordinate maneuvers among soldiers on the ground. He mentioned propaganda campaigns and also how ASD develops cybersecurity tools for the government.
“Whatever the technique, our objective is to use our offensive cyber capabilities to keep Australia and Australians safe,” Burgess said.
More on cyberwarfare: The British Army Has an Official Viral Content Division