The reality of warfare in cyberspace

Abiodun OLUWASIKU Written by Abiodun OLUWASIKU · 1 min read >

Consider that some of the deadliest ‘armies’ in the world today do not own a single gun, let alone artillery. Technology is a strategic factor driving the increasing use of the Internet by terrorist groups, anti-state actors, and their supporters for a wide range of purposes. While the many benefits of the Internet and allied technology are self-evident, terrorists/criminals have literarily shifted their pernicious enterprise to cyberspace. Cyberspace presents an ideal virtual battlefield of cyber warfare for terrorist groups and countries having problems with each other: Taiwan vs China; Israel vs Palestine; India vs Pakistan; China vs the U.S; the US vs Russia; Russia vs Ukraine.

Cyberterrorism is a premeditated, politically motivated attack against information technology infrastructure, computer systems, computer programmes, and data which results in violence against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents. It involves deliberate, large-scale disruption of computer networks, and critical information technology infrastructure by tools such as computer viruses, computer worms, phishing, malicious software and ardware and programming scripts. The purpose of launching such attack is to advance political, social and economic objectives.

Possible cyberterrorist targets include the banking industry, military installations, power plants, air traffic control centres, telecommunication networks, and water systems.

For instance, a simple propaganda of possible bomb attacks during the holidays can be considered cyberterrorism as this will cause fear, apprehension, panic, and disruption of peace. Equally, an attack may tend to demonstrate power, collect information relevant for ruining peoples’ lives, robberies, blackmailing, sabotage and hostage.

The use of the Internet to execute acts of terrorism offer logistical advantages such as:

  • easy access;
  • acquisition of resources necessary for the execution of the cyberwarfare;
  • little or no regulation, censorship, or other forms of government control;
  • anonymity of communication;
  • fast flow of information;
  • inexpensive development and maintenance of a web presence;
  • a multimedia environment characterised by the ability to combine text, graphics, audio, and video and to allow users to download films, songs, books, posters, and so forth; and
  • the ability to shape coverage in the traditional mass media, which increasingly use the Internet as a source for stories.

Misappropriated credit cards or other forms of compromised electronic payment may be used to finance such purchases.

The Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, at the 25th Graduation Ceremony of the Nigerian Defense College, Abuja, declared that there is rapid transformation in the arena of military and security threats facing nations these days. These threats are among the quickest in today’s world to evolve and mutate. By choosing to wage war in cyberspace, hackers are powerful enough to inflict greater damage on corporations and nation-states than any conventional military could manage within a short time. He added that terrorists now thrive more with the use of social media and the Internet, cautioning that a new strategy should be in place to stop the trend.

In Nigeria, the dreaded Boko Haram now uses the internet to disseminate its propaganda, pushing out well-crafted videos on YouTube and social media. If militants, terrorist groups, and Internet hackers are constantly reinventing themselves, taking advantage of emerging technologies, and reinventing the very nature of battle in the 21st century, legitimate national Armed Forces have no excuse whatsoever to not be at cutting edge of forms of technological warfare. 


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