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What the Battle of Midway Can Teach Us About Cybersecurity Assessment

The Battle of Midway still can teach us data security, encryption and analysis
The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower commemorates the Battle of Midway. Photo credit: U.S. Navy.

Intelligence always has a place in successful military campaigns. Rarely has the collection of data — and the subsequent ability to draw intelligent conclusions from it — served such a pivotal role as it did in the three-day Battle of Midway in June 1942, when the U.S. Navy defeated the Imperial Japanese Navy. In fact, renowned military historian John Keegan would famously describe the event as “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.”

Only six months earlier, the Japanese had struck a devastating blow to the U.S. fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor. By the time Japanese fighter planes had completed their surprise attack on that fateful Sunday morning in December, eight battleships, a dozen other vessels and hundreds of planes were either destroyed or severely damaged. More than 2,400 American military and civilian personnel were dead, and approximately another 1,000 were wounded.

So how could such a turnaround happen so quickly, and how did an early form of cybersecurity assessment help turn the tide for Allied efforts in the Pacific? The answer is one that can still teach us a great deal, both in terms of national security and today’s competitive business landscape.

The Gamble at Midway

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, a large industrial effort was started to reinforce the U.S. fleet. Nevertheless, in the spring of 1942, Admiral Chester Nimitz — the commander of the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater at the time — still only had three aircraft carriers, a little over 40 other fighting vessels and 25 subs to keep the sizable Japanese fleet from attacking Hawaii and the entire West Coast. If Nimitz had miscalculated when, where and how the Japanese would next attack, it could have spelled disaster for the Americans and handed victory to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and his Japanese Navy.

However, unknown to the Japanese, an American team of analysts had been working diligently at Station Hypo in Pearl Harbor to crack the Japanese secret code, which was known to cryptographers as JN-25. Under the leadership of Commander Joseph Rochefort, the team was eventually able to make sense out of much of the mathematically encrypted code that used over 45,000 different five-digit signals to represent individual words and phrases.

As the spring of 1942 arrived, Commander Rochefort informed Admiral Nimitz that, according to intercepted and decoded messages, the Japanese were planning an attack on an area known only as “AF.” The team was unable to determine for certain what AF stood for. However, gambling that it most likely stood for the critical island base of Midway, a false message was sent by Midway’s senior officer that the base’s water distillation system had broken down.

Shortly after the misinformation message was sent, Station Hypo intercepted and decoded a Japanese message stating that AF was running out of fresh water.

Concluding he had the right information in hand, Nimitz was able to station his forces to intercept the Japanese Navy in their planned attack on Midway — and the rest, as they say, is history. By the time the Battle of Midway was over, four large aircraft carriers from the Japanese attack force — the Akagi, Hiryu, Kaga and Soryu — were sunk. Meanwhile, the U.S. only lost one carrier — the Yorktown — and a destroyer. In terms of personnel losses, the numbers also show a decisive outcome. The Japanese suffered over 3,000 fatalities during the battle, while the U.S. lost a little over 300 men.

In hindsight, the Battle of Midway was not only a transformational victory for the U.S. Navy, but also a major win for personnel whose jobs involved intelligence collection, analysis and strategic planning.

Cybersecurity Assessment for Your Enterprise

Whether your job involves protecting our nation or your business, the information gleaned from a detailed cybersecurity assessment can make a crucial difference when your competition is a hostile adversary or organization. Through experienced, advanced and ongoing cybersecurity assessment and consultation from DataSync, you can reap the benefits of fulfilling your mission or business objectives — without the surprise and setbacks all too often associated with cybercrime these days.

In addition, like Admiral Nimitz who had to decide precisely where and when to deploy his limited assets to meet a life-threatening challenge, you can make much more informed and therefore successful decisions when you know your data systems are secure.

With today’s cyberthreats, peace of mind can only be gained through vigilant cybersecurity assessment and subsequent strategic consulting. Fortunately, you can rely on DataSync to deliver a 360-degree view of your organization’s cyber risks and vulnerabilities. What’s more, by understanding your objectives, we can provide you with the type of timely intelligence that allows you to think strategically and make winning decisions every day.

Protect what’s important to you by contacting us today.