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Explaining some of the mysteries of the various black arts in Electrical Engineering.

 A Light-hearted Look at Information Warfare.


Anton Coetzee.

Definition of Information Warfare.


Information warfare, is simply the use of information to achieve certain objectives. Information, in itself, is a key aspect of national and commercial power and, more importantly, is becoming an increasingly vital national resource that supports diplomacy, economic competition and the effective employment of military forces.


Information warfare.


Information Warfare is about ideas and epistemology- meaning that it is about the way we think and, more important, the way decisions are made. And although information warfare would be waged largely, but not entirely, through the communication nets of a society or its military, it is, fundamentally, not just about satellites, wires, and computers. It is about influencing human beings and the decisions they make.


The target of information warfare, then, is the human mind, (Old-fashioned propaganda), especially those minds that make the key decisions of war or peace and, from the military perspective, those minds that make the key decisions on, if, when, and how to employ the assets and capabilities.


While the concept of information warfare in its computer, (ELINT - electronic intelligent gathering), communications, the net or web versions are mostly used for military operations involving traditional state-to-state conflict. There are new and dangerous players in "cyberspace"- the battlefield for information warfare, called the infowarrior.


Who are these infowarriors - who are these monitors of the information highway - Who do the work for ? To whom do the owe allegiance ? Is it to themselves, a country, an ideology or to the almighty dollar


Information Warfare is not to be confused with Cyberwar and Netwar, (Which has more to do with controlling the Internet (net), web and it's relevant practices), but of all information. Although, at first glance, these two terms may appear to be new words for the same thing, there is a difference. Although with time, it is becoming more and more difficult to differentiate, as computers take more and more controls of our lives and day to day activities.


There are so many different players - from the traditional military and government, to  business and  nonstate political agents such as Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Radio Free Europe, the Cominform, Agence France Presse, rogue computer hackers, some third world "rebel" (for example survivalist militias or Islamic revivalists) who stages a "a human rights abuse" for the various media groups. Ideological/religious inspired terrorists with easy access to world-wide computer and communications networks to influence, to exchange information, or to co-ordinate political action on a national or global basis.


All of this suggests that the military or governments of a traditional nation-state may not be the only ones threatened or the driver of our national security politics but also that of big business and the commercial implications are infinite.


Cyberspace may be the new "battlespace," but the battle remains the battle for the mind. There must be no confusion of the battlespace with the battle in the field. The strangest fact is that it not only affects first world countries but all countries with the least developed nations at the greatest risk, as they are the most easily influenced.


Before the advent of information warfare, propaganda was traditionally targeted through various mass media to influence a mass audience - traditionally rallies, meetings, by the newspapers, the old snail mail, radio and film. One key change made possible by the new technologies is the potential for customized propaganda (TV, mail order, e-mail and e-commerce, to name but a few). Those of us, who, have received individually targeted political advertising from a company specializing in "niche" marketing research must have had a momentary shudder when we realized that there are private companies who seem to know everything about our buying habits and tastes, and what television shows, we watch. Every credit card purchase adds data to someone's resources, and not everybody is selling just soap or politicians.


Contemporary public and commercial databases and the multiple channels of information transmission, computer bulletin boards, Cellphone, video / digital cameras and even the now, humble, common fax machine, have created constantly expanding number of sources, media and channels for the transmission of information.  Essentially available to anyone with skill or money to hire people of skill, to intercept, have created the opportunity and "target sets" for custom-tailored information warfare attacks on,  (not just e-mail spamming or credit card fraud for example), not just the average John Citizen, but the families of military personnel, business executives and political figures.


Most of the recent benefits of information technology are going, not into more powerful computers, but into more widely distributed intelligence. This aspect of commercial life can be applied to the battlefield with even greater force. Proliferation in the civil world has its limits -- one person can get on, but one functioning computer at a time.


In the military realm, though, computers could be slaved to sensors and networked. The use of intelligent devices on the battlefield has no theoretical upper limit and such distribution is not only possible, but also optimal. For military operations, efficient area-wide coverage becomes important. A hundred pairs of eyes can always find something in the field more easily if they are spread around, rather than bunched up. Dispersion is also good for localizing an object. A hundred pair of 'eyes' can detect, and more important, track a movement better than a single high-power 'eye' stuck in one place.


The cost - performance ratio of computers has flipped; it is greater at the lower end than the upper end. Microprocessors deliver more mips (million instructions per second) for the dollar than their more sophisticated mainframe or even supercomputer rivals. Even supercomputers, these days, are most cost - effective when built from thousands of microcomputer or workstation, and the best microprocessors are found, not in giant machines, but in workstations; while the most cost-effective microprocessors are in high-end personal computers. If digital television takes off, the most cost-effective chips may be found within these sets, only further validating this generalization as, high-capacity fiber optic lines are still the most cost- effective way to send a bit.  


The cost-effectiveness of employing less sophisticated products manufactured in the millions rather than a handful of very sophisticated products extends to other information products: photographic film, television and computer displays, tape backup, (e.g., audio cassette-sized tapes or video tapes), CD-ROM, and hard disk drives. Information technology tends to be most cost-effective at the low end.



This pattern of the information age stands in direct contrast to historically recognized patterns of the industrial age, where bigger was more cost-effective. For instance, larger submarines tend to be quieter. Full-sized aircraft carriers can launch far more planes. Yet, cost relatively, only slightly more than pocket-sized carriers. Heavy space systems can lift a pound into orbit cheaper than their lighter cousins can. The Boeing 747 still offers the lowest cost per seat-mile. Auto factories, nuclear plants, oil refineries, cement kilns, and chemical reactors achieved their greatest economies at largest sizes.


A further reason is that distributed systems put intelligence where it can be used at peoples fingers tips - Cell phones, palm tops, notebooks to name a few. A central box with a hundred phones may offer the most calls per dollar, but forcing everyone to go to the box would be highly inefficient. Even distributing a hundred desktop terminals may be less cost-effective than networked PCs, if users cannot customize them and thus avoid using them.


Currently, for example, (conservatively estimated) over 90 million people in over 110 nations, using over +20 000 databases and growing daily. The domestic computer, communication, and information networks essential for the daily functioning of our society are very vulnerable to penetration and manipulation, even destruction, by determined hackers.


Daily over an estimated 5 000 software pirates, hackers, are prowling the Internet, some in the employ of hostile commercial or intelligence services or freelancing - Are these the new infowarriors of the future or the new guardians of our future ? In the future, these may not be amateurs, but well-paid "network ninjas" inserting the latest American, British, German, French, Iranian, South African or Chinese virus into the web or other parts of the Internet.


A strategic information warfare attack on communication systems, including military communication systems, air traffic control system, financial net, fuel pipeline pumping software, and computer-based clock/timing systems, could result in social paralysis.


The resources and skills required for battlefield cyberwar are not insignificant, but the resources and skills required to wage Information War at the national strategic level is so massive that no single entity or government can hope to combat it alone. Another is the ability to prosecute - as the political and legal issues surrounding Info war are murky, not clearly, nor universal or globally defined, nor understood or agreed on. What if a hacker / infowarrior in Country A attacks a system in country B ? How can he be bought to justice ? Is it even a crime in country B ?


Armed forces, Security and Intelligence Agencies, only execute, mostly, the national military strategy-they do not control it. However, they are developing the tools and techniques to execute the national military strategy for operational-level Information Warfare. They are simultaneously, albeit unintentionally, developing the tools and capabilities to execute a national strategic information war strategy. The former is their job under the Constitution; the latter may not be.


Government oversight in the development of a national strategic-level information war capability is even more essential than oversight of the intelligence community, who often act independently and at cross purposes with what is good for good, old Joe Soap.


In Conclusion,


Technological wizardry aside, does anyone really believe that anyone, or that any government, or anyone in Government has the philosophical sophistication, moral impartiality, to monitor and to control the information superhighway ? Never the less, protect the public or innocent user from it. Thus, Information Warfare is the battle of not just the future, but of now the present.




Disclaimer and Note.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those solely of the author. This material is copyrighted. Any comments, any omission or additional information, can be made directly to the author at e-mail: wfare@worldonline.co.za.


About the Author:


Born in East London South Africa, now living in Pretoria South Africa - Spent over twenty years in the technical field - mainly Radar and later Electronic Warfare - more recently mainly in the Information Technology. Most recently, a brief spell with Wargames, thus his interest in Information Warfare, Electronic Warfare, Wargames and related fields. Presently self-employed. 


1                    The Internet. 

2                    Various Article on Information War and Warfare

3                    Bulletin Boards - Various posts



Additional reading:


1                    http://www.uta.fi/~ptmakul/infowar/index.html

2                    http://defence-data.com

3                    http://www.stratfor.com/