New graphic novellas to educate Soldiers, families on future cyber threats

By: Devon L. Suits

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Advancements in cyber and smart technologies have the potential to alter the landscape of future military operations. To help educate Soldiers about this future threat, the Army Cyber Institute at West Point, New York, has partnered with Arizona State University Threatcasting Lab to produce a series of graphic novellas. The graphic seen here is from the novella titled "Hero." (Photo Credit: U.S. Army )

FORT MEADE, Md. -- Since World War II, the Army has been using comic books to train Soldiers on specific duties and reduce casualties through improved situational awareness.

The trend continued through the Vietnam War. At that time, the Army discovered a training deficiency and produced a comic book to educate Soldiers about proper weapon maintenance.

Fast forward to today, the Army is facing a new challenge.

Advancements in cyber and smart technologies have the potential to alter the landscape of future military operations, according to Lt. Col. Robert Ross, threatcasting project lead at the Army Cyber Institute, West Point, New York.

The U.S. military, allied partners, and their adversaries are finding new ways to leverage networked devices on the battlefield, Ross said.

"The use of networked technology is ubiquitous throughout society and the leveraging of these devices on future battlefields will become more prevalent; there is just no escape from this trend. Technology is integrated at every level of our Army," he said.

Keeping with the Army's legacy of producing visual literature to improve readiness, the ACI has partnered with Arizona State University Threatcasting Lab to produce a series of graphic novellas, Ross said.

The lab brings together military, government, industry, and academia experts to envision possible future threats.

Through their research, the workshop develops potential cyber threat scenarios, and then explores options to disrupt, mitigate, and recover from these future threats.

Each graphic novella considers what cyber threats are plausible in the next 10 years -- based on a combination of scientific fact and the imagination of those involved, Ross explained.

"This project is designed to deliver that understanding through visual narrative," he said. "Technical reports and research papers do not translate as well to the audiences we are looking to influence. Graphic novellas are more influential of a medium for conveying future threats to not only Army organizations at large, but down to the Soldier level."

The novella titled "1000 Cuts" depicts the psychological impact that a cyber-attack could have on Soldiers and their families. In the story, these attacks were enough to disrupt a deployed unit, leaving them open to an organized attack, Ross said.

"Given the exponential growth in Soldiers' use of [networked] devices … 1000 Cuts presents an extremely plausible threat. It demonstrates how non-state actors can leverage technical vulnerabilities within the cyber domain to their advantage in the land domain," Ross said.

"The visual conveyance of a graphic novella enables leaders to not only envision these scenarios but retain the lessons that can be drawn from them as well," he added.


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