The transition to the "Digital Age", characterized by a strong reliance on information systems, exposes current society to threats unthinkable until a few decades ago. This type of threat assumes increasing importance as it is directly proportional to the "computer addiction" of the most technologically advanced countries, and it represents one of the most effective methods of "asymmetric warfare”. In recent years, malicious subjects have tended to identify as possible targets, no longer only communications services (such as websites or e-mail service providers), but also Industrial Control Systems (ICS). They support complex industrial processes, used both in civilian and military domains, which, if attacked, could constitute critical issues.
Furthermore, the high technology that characterizes the Armed Forces and their systems exposes them to cyber attacks that can have a direct impact on their functionality (such as interfering with the management of weapon systems or with communications during military operations). This introduces the concept of a new domain: the "cyberspace", which is characterized by its transversal character with respect to traditional domains (earth, sea, air and space) and endorsed by NATO at the Warsaw Summit 2016 as the fifth operational domain. In this context, the Italian Defense, understanding the threats but also the opportunities deriving from being a protagonist in cyberspace, in the 2015 "White Paper on International Security and Defense" expresses its intention to establish the Joint Command for Cyber Operations (the CIOC).
A quick glance at other friendly and allied countries shows that similar Cyber Commands have already been established or are being set up. The CIOC has achieved an Initial Operational Capacity (IOC) in September 2017 and will reach its Final Operational Capability not before 2019. The development of such an ambitious project is based on four key elements. The first is represented by its organizational structure, which will be composed of a "staff " for the Commander and an operative technical component, with deployable assets. The second is represented by the implementation of the necessary infrastructures and info-structures, composed by dedicated computer networks and physical infrastructures, capable of supporting, in a secure manner, the Command activities. The third fundamental element is the creation of appropriate virtual environments for the development and growth of skilled Cyber Force. Dedicated training facilities will be established, such as a Cyber Range, and a virtual Cyber Lab. They will be used to train and to keep operational readiness of the personnel employed in the CIOC. In order to maximize collaboration, they will support inter-agency and inter-allied activities (such as the collaboration with the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence - CCD COE - in Tallinn) and work in full synergy with the academic and industrial world. The fourth element, the most critical, relates to the personnel, always crucial component of an organization. Only a few highly skilled individuals are enough to conduct even very complex cyber activity. The extremely specialized technical knowledge that cyber operators will need requires CIOC to carry out a highly dedicated selection and recruiting process.
CIOC will be engaged on a double front: on the one hand it will guarantee its contribution to national military security, enhancing the ability to defend against cyber attacks. On the other hand it will be responsible for planning and conducting "Cyber Operations" to support military operations both in Italy and, if required, outside the national borders. Also, but not secondarily, it will contribute to national security, when needed. The latter capacity will be expressed trough Cyber Operative Cells (COC), deployed by the CIOC among the forces projected in Operational Theaters. The establishment of the CIOC aims to fill a capability gap, which was not yet expressed by the Italian Defense. Making a parallelism, the cyber dimension can today be seen as the aeronautical developments of the early twentieth century: as the first pioneers of the time, driven by simple passion, were committed to conquering the skies, so today a team of enthusiasts is trying to develop and achieve a capability so to be able to increase the security of their nations.