by October 12, 2002 0 comments

Information warfare is a generic term and there’s no single definition for it. One definition we found to be complete for the term refers to it as, “…the offensive and defensive use of information and information systems to deny, exploit, corrupt, or destroy, an adversary’s information, information-based processes, information systems, and computer-based networks while protecting one’s own. Such actions are designed to achieve advantages over military or business adversaries.” Information warfare has been an important component of wars and conflicts in determining the winner of a battle. Globalization of information further does make us believe that information warfare would play an increasing role in the future.

Information warfare has many faces. A well-known author on defense issues, from National Defense University, the US, has classified the field into seven categories: command-and-control warfare (C2W), intelligence-based warfare (IBW), electronic warfare (EW), psychological warfare (PSYW), hacker warfare, economic information warfare (EIW) and cyber warfare.

Further, to simplify understanding, each of these categories has two aspects: information offense (mainly information distortion) and defense (protection). 

Of these, the first four have been in use for a long time, but the difference now is in the extensive usage of IT in the various categories. In command-and-control warfare, the aim is to intrude between the sensors and control centers of a communications link. By doing so, the information sensed by the enemy’s control can be distorted and used to confuse troops and hence destroy the command hierarchy. The second one, intelligence-based warfare, finds extensive mention during the cold war between erstwhile USSR and US. Eavesdropping, spying, etc, are all a part of it. This intelligence is fed directly into operations rather than used for assessing the overall situation. 

Electronic warfare deals with electronic equipment, radio electronics, etc. Hence, it essentially lies in the communications domain. A large part of this deals with radars. Signal jamming and counter-jamming are the offence and defense techniques.

On the defensive, digitalization of signals has made it possible to reduce the transient time of pulses and analyze the return signal before it can be jammed. Another means is to use a spread-spectrum signal, where the actual signal is hidden in a broad spectrum of noise, which can only be decoded by the receiver. In the early days, manual cryptography was traditionally used to encrypt all defense communications, and code-breakers (essentially mathematicians) were prized possessions. Now encryption is done using sophisticated computer algorithms like DES, 3DES and PKE, which are much more difficult to crack. 

Psychological warfare deals with using information (especially maligned information) to affect the human mind rather than a system. Media plays an important role here. With better and global broadcasting techniques (especially DTH), it has become easier for a nation to influence the thoughts of the residents in another nation. Cultural warfare is a subset of psychological warfare. Some nations are highly disturbed by the influence of Western culture on their citizens. The idea of psychological warfare, however, is largely dependent on the acceptance of information by the target audience. 

Hacker warfare is purely targeted at computer systems. The offence can come from anywhere on a network. The purpose can be disruption of system services, theft of data and information, theft of services like credit-card details, posting false information into the systems and even complete shutdown. Popular tools used are viruses, logic bombs, Trojan horses, sniffers and vulnerability exploits. Hacker warfare is increasingly becoming a method to cripple information systems. However, the fundamental principle relies on the system being on a network. ‘Air-gapping’ (physically isolating a critical system) is a means of protecting it. Also, if the enemy nation is not relying on computer systems for information and services, hacker warfare cannot be initiated.

Economic information warfare deals with disrupting or maligning economic information to a nation. Nations rely on trade of goods and services and no economy can survive standalone. Blocking access to external data that determines market dynamics can effectively cripple a nation. Finally, cyber warfare broadly talks of information terrorism and semantic attacks.

While the first is to attack data files (like education records, insurance data and tax computations) and harass victims, the second aims at inducing failures and variance in computational results in systems.

Ashish Sharma

The Cloak of Invisibility

The idea of an ‘invisibility cloak’ has charmed us in science-fiction books. But now, Ray Alden of North Carolina is attempting to patent what he calls a 3-D cloaking process and apparatus for hiding objects and people.

The concept is simple. If the light that falls on one side of an object is mimicked on the other side, the object will not be visible and light seems to pass through it! 

The rear and front surfaces of an object are covered with a material containing an array of photo-detectors and light emitters respectively. The photo-detectors on the rear surface records the intensity and color of illumination behind the object. The light emitters on the front then generate light beams that are exactly the same measured intensity, color and trajectory. The light emitters will be fed by signals from onboard-embedded circuitry that does the complex calculation of the strength and direction of signals. Thus an observer looking at the front of the object will ‘see through it.’ Interesting, eh?

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