Colonel Amardeep Singh, SM (R)*
This is the second article in the Series Information Warfare (IW), by Colonel Amardeep. The first one can be seen here. The author here discusses the two forms of IW – Defensive and Offensive, and argues that defensive measures are much more important for a nation in Information Warfare. Some terms like Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) may be new to the reader, but merit attention. The fact that Defensive IW requires the whole of nation approach, cannot be overemphasized.
The reasons for the failure of the Northern Power Grid in India of January and July 2012, affected 630 Million people (63 crore) in seven States, are still unknown. Some do refer to the incidents as Chinese attacks, but the truth will never be known. Arab Spring can be attributed to social media platforms and closer home, the aftermath of Burhan Wani’s death, that led to more than 150 people killed and the entire state of J&K being in a state of unrest for more than six months, all happened through Facebook. Terrorists all over the globe have used the power of social media to propagate their ideology, recruit people, raise funds and coordinate their actions. 9/11 will stay as one of the biggest intelligence failures, wherein the US spy agencies could not decipher the communication tools being employed by Al-Qaeda.
Very little information is available about the two different forms of Information Warfare (IW). The general perception is that offensive capability holds the key to success in the information domain. However, it is just the reverse. In this form of war, the country with better defensive capability has better chances of winning. The notion of winning and losing too will have to be redefined. There is no territory to be captured, no enemy soldiers required to be defeated, no physical assets to be destroyed. Thus, effectively countering the offensive measures by the adversary(ies) can be termed as a victory in the IW. This is a long-drawn battle and a continuous war that has no geographical boundaries, no timelines, no start or finish points, and certainly no clear winners. Even while you are reading this, the IW is on. It is the highest form of non-contact warfare wherein substantial damage can be caused in electronic, cyber, and cognitive domains.
80% of IW is Defensive. A nation, not only has to protect its Critical Information Infrastructure (CII), like the Communication Networks, Satellite Centres, Nuclear facilities, Stock Exchanges, Power Grids and Air Traffic Systems, to name a few, but also guard the Cognitive Space (mind-space) of its entire population against adversaries offensive IW. The good news is that Defensive IW is simple and easy to implement. It starts with very routine processes as scrupulously following the cybersecurity protocols and good social media practices. Awareness and adherence to simple Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) hold to key to Defensive IW. There are systems in place, but one must understand that it’s a 24x7x365 kind of warfare. Offensive IW can be termed as an act of Commission, whereas Defensive IW is generally an act of Omission. The fact that the future wars will be completely asymmetric, bigger nations will tend to be easy targets of smaller entities. Thus, the larger the number of physical and human assets, the more attention is to be paid to Defensive Aspects.
Offensive information warfare is a highly specialized form wherein expertise and offensive capability will be a secret till the very end. In the Hollywood blockbuster Die Hard 4 (2007, Starring Bruce Willis, Justin Long) a small bunch of Cybercriminals brings down the entire nation to its knees by launching coordinated cyberattacks on the critical information infrastructure. The attacks can be launched by a small group of people from remote locations and even from moving vehicles. The internet has connected the entire world and there are hardly any boundaries between physical and cyber domains. With the advancement of technology and proliferation of interconnectivity coupled with new emerging fields like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), the problem is only going to get further complicated. In the film Matrix (1999), machines take over the world, and humans are used as the bio source of energy.
The inbuilt deniability in Offensive Information Warfare holds the key to success. We often hear of Cyberattacks being launched on countries and organizations; however, no conclusive proof has ever been produced. Americans too, despite being the world leaders in Information warfare, could only accuse Russians of manipulating the Presidential elections. This is non-contact warfare where the casualties in the physical domain are minimal, however economic and psychological effects are long-term and can be devastating.
Defensive information Warfare requires the whole nation approach, which means that the entire nation’s critical information infrastructure and population have to be protected. It’s a cumbersome task and since the attacker’s identity, strategy tools, and modus operandi will always be hidden, one can never be sure. The defensive measures are as simple as protecting your devices with passwords, following the laid down instructions on cybersecurity, and maintaining good cyber hygiene. For a nation, the key lies in identifying the CII and taking measures to protect it. It needs a complete understanding of the subject by the political, bureaucratic, and military fraternity. There are no physical, geographical, or temporal boundaries in Information Warfare. There is no start and finish point and certainly no timelines. IW is hybrid in nature and anything and everything is a potential target, including your mind. The good part is that defensive measures are cheap and can be implemented by just anyone. The bad part is that the enemy is always hidden, it’s always on the prowl and the damage is not immediately visible.
The awareness has to start from grass root level to the very top. It has to be simultaneous and not sequential. We are a big and self-reliant nation with a mind-boggling diversity in human resources. We have languages and cultures, religions and faith and ideologies more than the rest of the world combined and therefore, have glaring vulnerabilities and a huge task ahead of us. It is time to include this important domain in the school and university syllabi.
It’s more like a cat and mouse game. A cat has to catch just one mouse however, the mouse has to avoid all cats.
Colonel Amardeep, a 1993 Batch Infantry Officer, has served in the Indian army for 25 years. He has dealt with the subject of Information warfare, Media, and Social Media for over 10 years. He was an instructor in the Information Warfare Division at the Army war College, Mhow (MP). Col Amardeep is a poet also and you can see his poems here. Furthermore, he blogs at soldierwithapen.blogspot.com, www.soldierspeaks.wordpress.com
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the author and do not reflect the views of raagdelhi.com which does not assume any responsibility for the same.