“Interesting things happen along borders – transitions – not in the middle where everything is the same.” – Neal Stephenson
The following is a list of interesting and emerging concepts that we’ve conceived, popularized, or documented over the past two decades for further analysis and consideration. In many instances, the domain name representing the concept has been registered and pointed to this page. If you’d like to brainstorm in greater detail about the opportunities or risks associated with these concepts, please contact us.
AugBots – Augmentation Bots will engage in perceptive task management and communication on our behalf in the near future. If I always text my wife when I’m heading home from the office and my cell phone knows I’m in the car and heading that way, an AugBot will text her on my behalf. As the convergence of mobile, bandwidth, machine learning, and persistent geo-location continue, we will increasing rely on AugBots to assist us every day.
Augmented Intelligence – Stutter-step on our way to achieving artificial intelligence in which technology augments our intelligence, but only in ways that are predefined by its creators. Siri is a perfect exampled of Augmented Intelligence.
Augmented Reality – A virtual layer superimposed on one’s perception of the real world that may be indistinguishable from reality.
Asymmetry Everywhere – The adage that the Jedi want to bring balance to the force is a farce. Adversaries, competitors, and other actors/entities never seek balance. They seek asymmetry. Over time, I’ve come to recognize that order does not equate with balance, and the scales are never equally weighted regardless of whether we are talking international relations, economics, or societal frameworks like civil liberties versus security.
Asymmetry is a key objective of the red teamer. This point was highlighted for me with Michael Moore’s presentation at the Boyd & Beyond conference when he advocated that the concept of Yin and Yang is a lie. We always seek advantage, or at least less disadvantage, and that needs to be the guiding ethos of your red team. Out smart, out play, and be driven to actually win something. You can drive asymmetry through overwhelming force, technology or tactical surprise, attacks of disproportionality, or long-term strategy. From (10 Red Team Lessons Learned over 20 Years)
Big Data – Analysis of large complex data sets will have profound implications in the near-future. The concept of big data has been a reality we’ve worked within for a decade, but were first indoctrinated into using the term big data to describe it by Bob Gourley.
Can You Trust Your Toaster? – Subtitle for a 1996 paper by Matt Devost, Brian Houghton, and Neal Pollard exploring the potential threat of cyber terrorism. The toaster was used as an analogy for the “Internet of things” and connected devices that would populate our homes and offices in the future. Read [Information Terrorism: Can You Trust Your Toaster?]
Cold War Two – Are the U.S. and Russia in the midst of a second Cold War dominated by regional political issues and operations in the cyber domain?
Connected Living Facilities – A play on assisted living facilities that are designed not for elderly persons but technology addicts that chose to exist primarily in virtual worlds. A connected living facility would provide high speed Internet access along with meals and access to facilities for sleeping and bathing. Residents spend the majority of their time in virtual worlds or realities.
Criminal Insurgency – First coined by John Sullivan, the situation with Mexico has manifested itself as a criminal insurgency.
Cyber Adversary Characterization – Tools, processes, and analytic constructs used to determine the identity and intent of a cyber attacker. Originating from a USG sponsored workshop, the ideas where later expanded into an edited volume of the same title. [Buy the book]
Cyber Conflict – Popularized by the Cyber Conflict Studies Association (cyberconflict.org) to counter the notion that nations will engage in Cyber War. War is war irregardless of the domain it is fought in, but cyber conflict covers the spectrum of potential operations in cyberspace.
CyberFor – Cyber Forces will emerge as significant national security differentiators.
Cyberspace – First coined by William Gibson in the novel Neuromancer, cyberspace is often thought to be on overused and outplayed concept. However, with cyber recognized as an established domain of conflict and permeating our daily lives it seems the concept is of increasing relevance.
Cyber Sparkling – Remotely designating a target in cyberspace for attack.
Data Storm – Influx of sensor and other data associated with a crisis or significant event. To weather the data storm requires resiliency of infrastructure and analytical constructs that surface the most relevant or significant data points while also eliminating redundant data.
Devost’s Law of Exponential Change – Massive change becomes twice as easy every 36 months. The fuse of societal, technological, and scientific change will become increasingly shorter over time. Although change might occur more quickly (e.g easier) over time, that is not to say that some change won’t be devastatingly hard, even when occurring on a compressed time-frame. First articulated in a blog post entitled We all live in the future now.
Digital Integrated Response Teams – Proposed cyber special forces to counter online threats in the Can You Trust Your Toaster paper. “Like a “Digital Delta Force” these Digital Integrated Response Teams (DIRTs) would work from remote computer systems and use information warfare tactics to detect, locate and counter the information terrorists.”
Distributed Autonomous Corporations – First exposed to this concept when analyzing the emergence of Bitcoin. Wikipedia offers that a DAC “is a decentralized network of narrow-AI autonomous agents which perform an output-maximizing production function and which divides its labor into computationally intractable tasks (which it incentivizes humans to do) and tasks which it performs itself. It can be thought of as a corporation run without any human involvement under the control of an incorruptible set of business rules. These rules are typically implemented as publicly auditable open-source software distributed across the computers of their stakeholders. A human becomes a stakeholder by buying stock in the company or being paid in that stock to provide services for the company. This stock may entitle its owner to a share of the profits of the DAO, participation in its growth, and/or a say in how it is run.
Disruptive Thinker – There are times when thinking “outside the box” are not enough and we must engage in truly disruptive thinking to challenge assumptions or overcome a particular set of barriers. Our OODA Red Team members use a disruptive thinking methodology that can be applied to address problems or create opportunity.
Emergent Technology – Similar to technology surprise, but focused on the self-emergent properties of technology and unanticipated consequences of innovation. As William Gibson notes “One of the things that’s unknowable is how humanity will use any new technology. No one imagines that we’d wind up with a world that looks like this on the basis of the technology that’s emerged in the last hundred years. Emergent technology is the most powerful single driver of change in the world, and it has been forever. Technology trumps politics. Technology trumps religion. It just does.”
Future Forward – A methodology for engaging in analysis of the future developed and utilized by OODA LLC.
Future Pandemic – Global pandemics represent one of the greatest risks to international safety and security. Tracking emerging and future pandemics for rapid response and containment/countermeasures will be critical.
Generation Hack – The Generation X+ technology enthusiasts who applied hacker principles as their primary mechanism for adapting to rapid technological change and opportunity. Term first used as a title for an 1997 essay in Upstart Magazine about an invitation only hacker conference. Read [Generation Hack: Insights from a Hacker Con]
GeoFuzzing – Obscuring your geographic location by fuzzing geolocation data generated by mobile phones or other geolocation aware devices that broadcast your location (defensive). Manipulating GPS or other location signals to hijack or disrupt the operation of drones or other autonomous vehicles or aircraft (offensive).
Glassbombing – Disrupting, denying, or overloading datastreams to wearable devices like Google Glass.
GovPulse – Open data standards combined with machine learning will allow for increasingly granular inspection of government operations. This will lead to less transparency and less data being made available over time.
Homeland Security – In 2000, my colleague Neal Pollard convinced me that we should stop using the term “homeland defense” and use “homeland security” instead. His perspective was informed by the first responder community we interacted with daily, and the fact that they didn’t like the Defense department connotations of “homeland defense”. Later that day, we bought the domain homelandsecurity.com and mirrored the domain to our existing company site at terrorism.com (purchased in 1996).
Information Outcomes Cell – In 1999, I wrote a white paper about using commercial computer network attack capabilities to obtain strategic or tactical objectives. In 2000, a consultancy I founded offered an “Information Outcomes Cell” (IOC) as an official service. The IOC was defined as follows: “The Information Outcomes Cell (IOC) is an offensive cell that provides Computer Network Attack support to Governments, Private Military Corporations and international organizations in support of peace-keeping, humanitarian or low intensity operations. The IOC can be engaged for those operations for which information attack capabilities are required to meet a strategic objective, but the environment does not warrant the use of classified attack tools.” The name Information Outcomes was a play on the legendary mercenary firm Executive Outcomes. For the 20th anniversary of the Defcon hacker conference, I had challenge coins and t-shirts that were distributed at the FusionX event as a reminder that sophisticated adversaries are not the exclusive realm of the public sector.
Intel Fusion – Most of the global threats we face can only be countered with multi-source intelligence analyzed in context for decision makers or decisive action.
Kill with a Borrowed Sword – Adaptation of the ancient Chinese stratagem to signify an adversary using the infrastructure of a targeted society as an attack tool. First described in the realm of cyber attack in 1998, it also is a perfect analogy for the September 11, 2001 attacks. AQ would never have the ability to create a missile with the explosive and incendiary impact that could be delivered with the same level of precision against targets on U.S. soil as it was able to achieve by hijacking commercial airliners and using them as weapons.
Living Cyberdangerously – Term coined in 2008 to predict the upcoming year (2009) as a watershed year for information security issues as described in this blog post. As it turns out the coming year would bring us Operation Aurora, followed by many other alleged state sponsored attacks and the inclusion of Cyberspace as a new domain of conflict by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Machine Learning – As defined in Wikipedia; “a branch of artificial intelligence, is a scientific discipline concerned with the design and development of algorithms that allow computers to evolve behaviors based on empirical data, such as from sensor data or databases.” Our interest in less in getting computers to evolve their behavior, but rather to determine behavioral anomalies in data associated with human transactions.
MemeCrash – Disrupting meme propagation within radical groups or introducing new memes to disrupt or crash a social or cultural system. The term was first coined for a USG proposal to disrupt self-organizing extremist groups. From the project description: “This project seeks to study how early stage self-organizing groups can be disrupted by introducing calculated voices of dissent. Group dynamic studies show that unified groups can be disrupted with the introduction of a single voice of dissent which creates an escape valve for other moderate group members to gravitate away from the radical mean. It also seeks to study and understand unifying memes and external influences on early stage radical groups. Lessons learned in the virtual community can likely be applied to other operations.”
Network Conflict – Conflict enabled through or conducted over communication networks and information technology.
NonAugs – Individuals who refuse any sort of software or hardware augmentation.
OODA Loop Compression – First articulated during Matt Devost’s IFPA presentation in 2011, and later expanded upon for Red Teaming Lessons Learned. Operating within a faster OODA Loop than your adversary is the core precept of the OODA Loop concept itself. The fighter pilot able to complete the OODA Loop will have the advantage as Boyd did with his 40 second wins. However, we need to look beyond just completing the OODA Loop quicker and acknowledge that in some situations the OODA Loop might be compressed to just Observe – Act. This is especially true when red teaming in the cyber domain. What can you do to force your adversary to compress or truncate their OODA Loop and if they do, how you can you take advantage of it? This goes beyond surprise or deception, but can also be achieved through exploitation of procedures or other constructs narrowing your adversaries response options or their ability to respond in the first place. The red team’s agility and ability to operate within compressed OODA Loops can be a tactical enabler of the red team’s success.
Predictive Markets – Several years ago, we ran a predictive market that allowed one hundred intelligence analysts to place monetary bets on emerging international security issues. Our experience re-enforced a belief that predictive markets can provide amazing insight (often counter intuitive) if executed correctly.
Ronin Protocol – The use of non-aligned commercially available forces or capabilities in the pursuit of national strategic objectives.
Science Friction – Scientific developments that create societal discord or cultural discomfort.
Singularity Wars – Concept from a 1993 paper describing the next religious war as being between those who want to achieve singularity (and potentially immortality) and those who believe the singularity to be in conflict with their religious beliefs. The paper also examined the applicability of truly immersive virtual reality as a construct for understanding some non-Western philosophies. The timing coincided with Vinge’s popular essay, though I would not learn of the existence of his article for several years.
Snowcrash – Title of the highly influential 1992 science fiction novel by Neal Stephenson. In the book, Snowcrash is a virus distributed in the metaverse that has the ability physically impact those exposed to it in the real world. [Buy the book]
SpearFriending – Targeting someone with a social media “friend” or connection request with the intent to use that connection to facilitate malicious targeting.
Technical Defense Associates – Company founded in 2000 by Matt Devost to provide information security consulting services. In 2008, the company was sold to Total Intelligence Solutions and operated as a subsidiary of Total Intel for two years. TechDef was one of the first companies to offer a full-range of information security services to include policy, technical vulnerability assessments, red teaming, training and awareness, and threat intelligence with a specific focus on critical infrastructure protection. The company pioneered the concept of Information Security Due Diligence Assessments and had a clientele ranging from Fortune 10 to emerging start-ups.
Technology Surprise – Unanticipated deployment of unknown or existing technologies to produce disproportionate impact or advantage.
ThinkDisk – An individual knowledge repository with elementary machine learning capability. For example, your ThinkDisk would store your entire digital history and Augbots could conduct queries against it or use it for predictive analysis. The term ThinkDisk was deliberately chosen to dehumanize the concept and downplay the machine learning component vice calling it Artificial Intelligence.
Transaction Analysis – Not used here in the psychotherapy sense, but rather in the context of individual transactions that can be aggregated and analyzed to derive patterns of behavior. If we view everything we do as transactions (buy things, visit locations in the real-world and cyberspace, etc.) then the aggregate of those transactions is fertile big data for machine learning.
Twitter Early Warning – First used in discussion and blog post with Bob Gourley in 2008 to describe the phenomenon of obtaining breaking news on Twitter and how it could also be data mined for early indication of pandemics. There are entire books and projects dedicated to this concept now.
Virtual Tradecraft – A 2006 construct from a paper on how to conduct intelligence operations in online worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft that calls for the application of specialized tradecraft in those environments.
This list is maintained by Matt Devost and is primarily from the optic of projects or concepts I’ve conceived or been directly involved with. We’ll be adding to the list over time by reviewing notes and historical files and predicting future concepts of interest.