Propaganda & Warfare in Cyber World
02 August, 2011
By Farzana Shah
After sea, land and air warfare, traditional arch rivals India and Pakistan are now facing each other in another arena. With the help of Israelis, Indians have launched another war on a new axis against Pakistan – Cyber Warfare.
In certain aspects, Cyber warfare is complex, more penetrating and detrimental to the national security than conventional warfare. It is fought on the cyberspace using weapons like Cyber espionage, web vandalism, gathering data, Distributed Denial-of-Service Attacks (DDOS), equipment disruption, attacking critical infrastructure, compromised counterfeit hardware, virus and worm release. Potential targets include;
- Emergency services
- Financial markets and bank systems
- Power grids Water and fuel pipelines
- Strategic Weapons systems Communication networks (Military / Civil)
- Industrial and Engineering Complexes
- E-Government services (internet based utility services, web servers)
The Internet security company McAfee stated in their 2007 annual report that approximately 120 countries have been developing ways to use the Internet as a weapon and target financial markets, government computer systems and utilities.
Global Cyber Wars
China and US are spearheading cyber war at global level with dozens of cyber attacks on each other’s critical IT infrastructure. Both countries are spending millions every year in order to fight against cyber attacks.
Lethality of cyber warfare become palpable by the fact that till April 2009, Pentagon had spent more than 100 million dollars in just 6 months to fight against cyber attacks on its different systems. Money spent on propaganda operations are apart from this. In October 2010, US army created its first ever US army Cyber Command headed by a 3 star General.
From Pakistan’s perspective, unlike any other conventional threat, cyber warfare is rather a new battle field. Pakistan is not geared nor prepared to respond to this latest threat. India has all the reasons and resources to use this as a weapon against Pakistan. Recently Israel has joined hands with India raising this threat level significantly to be ignored any longer.
Cyber espionage, web vandalism and information gathering are the known cyber weapons and tools to be used against a security establishment and government. Apart from these cyber threats, the cyber world has been also used ruthlessly for the propaganda warfare. As per various media reports one can be sure that Indians and Israelis are taking these known cyber threats to its next level by using money, talent and technology to defame Pakistan and its nuclear program.
How eagerly the Indians want to gain an edge in cyber warfare technology is evident from what the Indian Naval Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta told to Start Post;
“The Indian Armed Forces are increasingly investing in networked operations, both singly and in a joint fashion. We cannot afford to be vulnerable to cyber attacks. Information Technology is our country’s known strength and it would be in our interest to leverage this strength in developing a formidable ‘offensive’ and ‘defensive’ cyber warfare capability. Harnessing the gene pool available in academia, private industry and the younger generation of talented individuals is imperative,”
Statement of the Indian Naval Chief is an endorsement to the media reports that India has offensive cyber warfare plans. Pakistan is the natural target though Indian military establishment and political leadership used Chinese threat as an excuse for introducing this new war theatre in the region.
In August 2010 the Indian government decided to recruit and form cyber army of software professionals to spy on the classified data of hostile nations (read Pakistan and China) by hacking into their computer systems.
A strategy was drafted for this purpose earlier in a high level security meeting on July 29, 2010, chaired by Indian National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and attended by the director of Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) as well as the senior officials of the telecom department, IT ministry and RAW.
According to the strategy drafted in the meeting, India will recruit IT professionals and hackers who will be assigned to be on the offensive or to launch pre-emptive strikes by breaching the security walls of enemy’s computer systems. The most important factor to note is the involvement of the Indian National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) along with the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) who will be responsible for creating these cyber-offensive capabilities. It is to be noted that NTRO is a key government agency of India that gathers technical intelligence while DIA is tasked with collating inputs from the Navy, Army and the Air Force.
The Indian Army conducted a war game called the Divine Matrix in March 2009. The most interesting aspect of this exercise was that Indian Military simulated a scenario in which China launches a nuclear attack on India somewhere in 2017. The purpose of the exercise was to describe how China will launch a cyber attack on India before the launch of the actual nuclear strike.
Chinese were not amused by this Indian war gaming and simulation. Their Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Qin Gang expressed his views on the Indian cyber warfare exercise. “We are surprised by the report. Leaders of China and India had already reached at consensus that the two countries will not pose a threat to each other but rather treat each other as partners.”
However, recently the Indian Army chief and the ex-chief have clearly threatened that there can be a nuclear war in the region (a veiled threat to both Pakistan and China).
Indo-Israeli Cyber nexus against Pakistan:
Though no large scale cyber attack has been reported as yet in Pakistan, yet a number of limited cyber skirmishes have already taken place between the Indian and Pakistani hackers in the recent years. In 2008 a group of Indian hackers defaced a Pakistani website of the Ministry of Oil and Gas. In a quick and effective retaliation Pakistani hackers attacked and defaced many Indian websites. This year too, many websites were defaced by the hackers on both sides.
This is where the interests of both India and Israel converged. According to reports, Israel has recently established a Cyber Task Force for Cyber Warfare against Islam and Pakistan, besides harming the Palestinian cause. A 15 million dollar budget has been allocated to this force to carry out various digital espionage and information gathering operations against Islam and Pakistan.
Propaganda Warfare and Cyber Space
In a new development, Israel has also setup a huge workforce of writers on the internet and is still increasing its strength. Primary task of this force would also be to wage propaganda war against Pakistan and its nuclear weapons and armed forces. Israelis are waging a net based disinformation and psychological war against Pakistan for quite some time now. Hebrew websites and magazines have been targeting Pakistan by orchestrating near to impossible scenarios about vulnerability of Pakistani nukes and the “possibility” of their falling into Al-Qaeda hands. Israelnationalnews.com, IsraelNN.com, and Arutz-7’s Hebrew newsmagazine are a few to name among these media outfits where Israelis are spiting and spewing venom against Pakistan.
Israeli government first tested these cyber propaganda tools during operation Cast Lead (brutal military operation in Gaza in 2008) when bloggers, surfers and writers were asked by the ministry of foreign affairs of Israel, through www.giyus.org (Give Israel You United Support), to promote words like “holocaust”, “promised land” and “murder of Jews” on social networking and blogging websites like Face Book, Twitter, MySpace, BlogSpot, wordpress etc. Israeli government went to the extent of giving written messages to be posted on the aforementioned websites as if they were the personal responses or views of the citizens of other countries.
Israeli lobbies have been heavily exploiting their clouts in US and UK to wage propaganda war against Pakistan’s nuclear program through satellite news channels (like BBC, FOX, SkyNews) and news papers (New York Time, Washington Post, etc.). Disinformation campaign was also launched from US and Western media when operation Rah-e-Rast was initiated in Swat and Malakand regions. Taliban threat was so exaggerated that a perception was created as if Islamabad was about to fall to the Taliban! Indian government also took active part in this campaign. Indian Prime Minister took this disinformation war to new heights by saying that some of the Pakistani nuclear installations were already under Taliban control!
Israeli cyber operations were resolutely and admirably countered by the young Palestinian bloggers by posting thousands of pictures and footages of Israeli brutalities in GAZA over the internet.
In Pakistan, as compared to the adequate measures being taken for the upkeep of the conventional forces and the safety and security of the strategic assets, it is alarming to see the absence of any serious threat perception in the theatre of cyber warfare. The government as well as the armed forces seem to have neglected this threat for too long now and are not prepared to readily respond to this new challenge. Pakistan cannot afford any more complacency in this regard and better take immediate steps to respond to this lurking threat on literal war footings.
It would need absolute coordination, planning or understanding within various civil and military organizations and intelligence agencies responsible for the Cyber Warfare and perception management through propaganda wars in the cyber space. The whole existing system and organizations are to be revamped and some restructured to deliver effectively in these times of great crisis and threats in this arena. Reliance on the old fashioned methods of collecting and collating information and processing have to be updated. This should be clearly understood that in the modern world only those nations would have the advantage on the battle field, in both conventional and unconventional wars, which have fought and won the war in the cyber world first. The entire military equation in a war can be changed dramatically without even firing a shot, by controlling the critical infrastructure and perception of the target population through propaganda war in the cyber world.
Weapons like E-bombs have emerged as a new threat to cripple the military communication infrastructure by producing massive electromagnetic pulse. Pakistan must start work on Transient Electro Magnetic Pulse Emanations Standards, known as TEMPEST in military parlance to counter electromagnetic-pulse bombs that can interrupt wireless signals.
Pakistan has already faced interception of its vital secrete data on military operations in FATA by India through its assets in the area. It is, therefore, a must that we should work on TEMPEST and harden it to a degree of zero chances of interception of data transferred by defence agencies.
Pakistan needs urgently to create a centralized, aggressive and pro-active Command for Cyber and Information warfare under the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. The unguarded flank of Pakistan defence must be secured at the soonest.