Friday, 10 March 2017

WORLD: Cyber Superiority

The Europe Union and NATO accuse Russia of orchestrating cyber-war in Europe. European Union officials believe that there had been a step-change in Russia's behaviour and raise concerns that Russia is trying to influence the upcoming election in Germany and France.

Last month, Russia denied that it was involved in an attempt coup during Montenegro's election, after a Montenegrin prosecutor claimed Russia had played a role in an attempted putsch to stop the country joining NATO.

Russia officials claim that the U.S. has been doing exactly that for so many years. They base their argument on Wikileaks' publication, on Tuesday, of thousands of pages on internal CIA hacking techniques used over several years. Russia believes that the CIA hacking techniques have been also used against foreign countries, as Snowden's leaks revealed.

Wikileaks' publication appeared to supply specific details to what has been long known on the abstract:U.S. intelligence agencies, like their allies and adversaries, are constantly working to discover and exploit flaws in any manner of technology products.

In fact, in recent years, the CIA underwent a restructuring focus more on cyber war to keep pace with the increasing digital sophistication of foreign adversaries. The CIA is prohibited by law from collecting intelligence that details domestic activities of Americans and is generally restricted in how it may gather any U.S. intelligence data for counterintelligence purposes.

In the aftermath of U.S. election 2016, discussions about cyber war became more realistic and less theoretical. The volume of cyber attacks is only likely to grow. Military leaders in the US and its European NATO partners are outfitting new battalions for the impending data war.

The Pentagon launched its much-anticipated “Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace” in July 2011, it appeared the US military was interested only in protecting its own computer networks, not in attacking anyone else’s.  Today, the US Air Force budget request include $4 billion in proposed spending to achieve “cyberspace superiority,”.

Much of the cyber talk around the Pentagon these days is about offensive operations. It is no longer enough for cyber troops to be deployed along network perimeters, desperately trying to block the constant attempts by adversaries to penetrate front lines. The US military’s geek warriors are now prepared to go on the attack, armed with potent cyberweapons that can break into enemy computers with pinpoint precision.

The new interest in attacking enemies rather than simply defending against them has even spread to the business community. Like their military counterparts, cybersecurity experts in the private sector have become increasingly frustrated by their inability to stop intruders from penetrating critical computer networks to steal valuable data or even sabotage network operations. The new idea is to pursue the perpetrators back into their own network.

A cyberweapon could take down computer networks and even destroy physical equipment without the civilian casualties that a bombing mission would entail. Used preemptively, it could keep a conflict from evolving in a more lethal direction. The targeted country would have a hard time determining where the cyber attack came from.

Achieving “cyber superiority” in a twenty-first-century battle space is analogous to the establishment of air superiority in a traditional bombing campaign. Before strike missions begin against a set of targets, air commanders want to be sure the enemy’s air defense system has been suppressed. Radar sites, antiaircraft missile batteries, enemy aircraft, and command-and-control facilities need to be destroyed before other targets are hit.

Similarly, when an information-dependent combat operation is planned against an opposing military, the operational commanders may first want to attack the enemy’s computer systems to defeat his ability to penetrate and disrupt military’s information and communication networks.

Cyberspace is increasingly becoming a place of risk and danger, vulnerable to hacks and cyber warfare. With today's civilization dependent on interconnected cyber systems to virtually operate many of the critical systems that make our daily lives easier, it is obvious that cyber warfare can be the choice for many governments and states, for military, economic and political reasons.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
International Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Getty Images/AFP