US launches its first cyberattacks against ISIS

Bombs and missiles aren't the only ways to fight extremism.

Reuters/Rick Wilking

The US no longer thinks that it's enough to hurt ISIS through airstrikes and cutting off propaganda channels -- it's starting a full-on digital warfare campaign. Cyber Command is launching its first attacks against ISIS' digital infrastructure in a bid to disrupt its communications and other basic functions. According to New York Times sources, this includes everything from imitating commanders to interrupting payments to fighters. This, in turn, could slow down ISIS as it second-guesses its moves for fear of being led into an American trap.

This represents a big shift in strategy not just in the fight against ISIS, but for the US' approach to cyberwarfare. Typically, the country has reserved cyberattacks for Iran, North Korea and other nations which might pose a physical threat. They've been preventative measures. Here, the military is using them as part of an active (if limited) conflict -- they're as much a weapon as a bomb or missile. Although it's too soon to say if these internet assaults will be effective (they may lead ISIS to harden its online security), the very fact that they're being used at all is noteworthy.