West 2020

Cyberwar is like a soccer game with fans on the field

How complicated are cyberspace operations? They're like a soccer game with fans running around on the field while the two teams are playing, according to one official on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Coast Guard Vice Adm. Marshall Lytle, who is the director of command, control, communications and computers/cyber and the chief information officer on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained the importance of trying to deconflict cyber teams and cyber operations to avoid blue-on-blue interference.

On the ground, it is easy to see other people running around and where they're from, he said Feb. 22 during a panel session at the AFCEA West conference in San Diego, California. But in cyberspace operators only see bits and bytes, not knowing if they are from partner nations, adversaries or other U.S. agencies.

He said cyberspace has been incorrectly analogized to a football game in the past, noting cyberwarfare is not an offensive team squaring off against a defensive team with separate plays.

Similarly, cyberwarfare is not like a soccer game, either, despite previous analogies of both offensive and defensive teams on the field at the same time. Rather, cyberwarfare is like a soccer game but with all the fans in the stadium on the field with the competing teams. Both teams fighting against each other are trying to win with the fans mixed in, he said, adding operators don't always know who's who; no one is wearing uniforms, but nonetheless they are still trying to get the mission accomplished.

This leads to a complicated environment and thus the force has to focus on avoiding blue-on-blue engagements and getting to the target successfully.

Cyber Command as the synchronizer assigns teams to combatant commands to get at priorities and does its best to deconflict ahead of time, he explained.



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