BY SAPIEN SAPIEN
Zimbabwe still has a long way to go before comprehending that cyberspace is a domain of warfare. A cursory look at the suggested Cyber Security Bill indicates that the objective of the Bill, and its related wording, is to tame and control social media usage. Cyber issues go beyond that. The digital space offers enough lucrative opportunities to be tapped into. Other countries even recognise this truth by coming up with posts and titles such as Ambassador for Cyber Affairs; the objective being to commercialise cyberspace via enhancing collaboration between the government and the private sector.
Martin van Creveld, a renowned military theorist, reconceptualised legendary views by the Chinese military genius, Sun Tzu by recognising that cyberspace saves as an adjunct to conflict in the physical domain.
In essence, the military guru characterised cyberspace as the fifth domain of warfare after the usual theatres, that is, land, air, space and water. The “clickskrieg” attack on Estonia, Talinn to be specific, compelled Nato to come up with the Cyber Security Centre of Excellence and the now famous Talinn Manual. The Tallinn Manual is an academic, non-binding study on how international law applies to cyber conflicts and cyber warfare.
The Russians have been known to deploy, aggressively, their cyber capabilities against their adversaries as the ongoing hybrid warfare between the west and the east oscillates between the protagonists with no end in sight. It is not beyond the logic of this submission to lay bare the rationale that cyberspace, as a global digital communication and information transfer ecosystem, avails an array of threats and omnipresent challenges to the individual, corporates and nation states at large.
The 2010 attacks on Iranian centrifuges when the Stuxnet virus was launched by suspected agents from Israel and the US represents an obvious episode wherein cyberspace can be weaponised against an ideological foe below the threshold of military confrontation with debilitating implications.
As such, the rationale that cyberwarfare is a form of asymmetric warfare is evidently clear for comprehension to be made. Attackers waging this kind of warfare can choose to be anonymous and virtual yet the damage they pose is fundamental and long lasting. The attack by the Israelis on Syrian networks prior to a bombing blitz in 2007 highlights this reality.
It is hence evident that an attacker can decide to take advantage of the naivety of a defender by unleashing Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) or even using networks of Botnets and logic bombs to overrule command and control systems whilst at the same time retrieving data for espionage or even national security reasons.
Distributed Network Attacks are often referred to as DDoS attacks. This type of attack takes advantage of the specific capacity limits that apply to any network resources – such as the infrastructure that enables a company’s website.
These cyber threats and attacks are engineered towards damaging, disrupting networks and are waged for propaganda purposes and for strategic reasons by hostile nation states and/or organised criminal syndicates. In short, cyber network vulnerability is a real issue that nation states, Zimbabwe included, must be alert to.
In Zimbabwe, such levels of alertness are yet to be recognised. Our cyber doctrine, if at all it exists, does not address our defense posture and how to attack in an effort to build and enhance deterrence. Our critical infrastructure remains vulnerable to intrusions from hostile elements whilst our defence in depth arrangement is shambolic when it comes to these issues.
The world is talking of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and industry collaboration whilst we hope to retool Second Industrial Revolution (2IR) industries in an effort to make them viable again. This fallacy is making us lose our competitive advantage, ignore variable cost while continually using podiums to promise thousands of unemployed youths jobs in definitely moribund extractive industries.
We have to move with changing times and embrace cyberspace and the numerous advantages it avails. At present, one will not be hallucinating if he/she insinuates that we are still many light years behind if ever the benefits to be accrued from cyberspace are to be considered.
We are faced with a growing insurgency in Mozambique. The terrorists there have declared allegiance to the Caliphate vision propagated by the slain Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in Mosul. They are known to use the darkweb to recruit and radicalise whilst taking advantage of the swarmcast technique to wage online jihad. They take cyberspace as a proper battlefield whilst we ponder and wonder what it is beyond twitter, facebook and whatsApp.
It is high time we rethink security lest we are going to be made to pay for our brazen ignorance. Cyberspace is the real deal and the earlier we recognise this, the better for all of us
Sapien is a trade and security analyst