CNO Part 1: Computer Network Exploitation

This is the first part in my series about Computer Network Operations (CNO).  Again, I welcome any and all discussion on the matter and hope that this post will help educate our readers and encourage dialogue between them.

  • Computer Network Exploitation (CNE): Includes enabling actions and intelligence collection via computer networks that exploit data gathered from target or enemy information systems or networks. Joint Pub 3-13

CNE, which can include cyber-espionage, has many advantages at the strategic, operational, and the tactical levels.  Strategically, an adversary may find it more beneficial to collect data against us rather than make an offensive move against us, for fear of retaliation.  Again, a vulnerability in our network is an open door for another to come take information.  This is generally physically harmless, but the amount of information that walks out the door daily is staggering and it adds up.

This has been one of the biggest problems that the U.S. has had to deal with in recent years, as witnessed during the release of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables over the Wikileaks website last summer.  China and other countries steal our government and our industry secrets every day.  Of course, that is not to say that we aren’t stealing theirs as well, but we need to continue to become better, while getting better at securing our own information.

In an excerpt from the book Toward a Theory of Space Power: Selected Essays, Benjamin Lambeth, a RAND researcher, says “unlike the air and space environments, cyberspace is the only military operating area in which the United States already has peer competitors in place and hard at work.”[1] Naturally, most hold China to be our main competitor in this arena, and in fact most other areas as well, but there are and will be other adversaries, state-level and below, that have designs on exploiting the United States through the cyber domain.  What are some strategies that we should seek to continue growing in this area?

[1] Lambeth, B. (2011). Airpower, space, and cyberwar. JFQ, (60), Retrieved from


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