Opinion: New Medium of Warfare: Cyber Space

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PKKH Exclusive | by Ahmed Khan

The 21st century highlights the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) and the improvements in the Art of War, forcing the nations to enter into the fourth generation of warfare. In fact, with the advancement in the crafts associated with information technologies has germinated more conflict of interests among the nations. In the 20th century, the Art of War was maneuvered by the breakthrough in modern technologies.During the two World Wars, the outcomes of the battles were the blends of both art and modern technologies, which have resulted in military excellence. The advances in the modern weaponry changed the course of history during the 20th century.

Today, the world is facing a new kind of non-kinetic security threatCyber-espionage or Cyber-attack. At present, fighting a war with kinetic means is very costly as well as there are some inherited limits to the application of tangible elements of military power, which include political, psychological, physical and credible capacity to coerce. The technologically advanced nations nowadays are more interested is using cyberspace, a more realistic and lethal medium to inflict damage or persuade their adversaries. Nations are seemed to be willingly practicing Sun Tzus strategy of indirect warfareTo subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence. Captivatingly, Cyberspace is now become a new medium of warfare among the technologically advanced countries, trying to break enemy resistance without fightingthe information warfare and cyber warfare.

In the international system, China and United States are competing with each other in different spheres of influence, including the cyberspace. For last couple of years, the cyber-attacks from both sides on each others critical infrastructureMilitary Installations, Financial Institutions and Communication Networkshas paced.

US blamed Chinese hackers in support with Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), attacking US defense organizations, stealing and hacking critical information and data, which is according to them a breach of their national security. US also held responsible PLA to hone and perfect the techniques of its cyber units or cyber militias, operating from Shanghai according to their leaked official documents.

In consequence to this warfare, the economic lose due to these malicious activities on the internet is gargantuan, and this has also made internet no longer to be safe. On this subject, a US cyber security analyst working in Homeland Security Department estimated a loss of approximately $ 250 billion to the U.S companies caused by cyber-espionages or attacks, by and large originated from the China and a number of attacks also hurled by the Russian hackers. US authorities also suspected Chinese hackers breaching White House military network in early September, 2011, retrieving vital defense documents, disrupting the Strategic Command and Control of the President to U.S forces in both US and abroad.

On the other hand, China has also alleged US hackers spying on secret Chinese systems. Last year, according to Chinas National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team, about 7.8 million Chinese computers were affected in 27,900 IP attacks led by foreign hackers. The allegations on each other have caused swift change in U.S-China diplomatic relations. President Obama in an interview with ABC News said that What is absolutely true is that we have seen a steady ramping up of cyber security threats. Some are state sponsored. Some are just sponsored by criminals. While congratulating Xi Jinping for becoming the new Chinese President, he reportedly talk to the President on the enhanced cyber-attacks on the U.S companies proprietary information and intellectual property from the Chinese soil. Leaving aside, Paul Kaminski, a member of Obamas intelligence advisory board in his very aggressive statement, threatened the state actors with a massive nuclear retaliation as well as an offensive counter cyber-attacks, involved in the cyber-attacks on US infrastructure. Following the quadrupled, the newly appointed head of the United States Cyber Command team General Keith Alexander also said that the US has created offensive cyber warfare division, it could be an army battalion, marine corps or squadrons in the U.S Navy and Air force, termed as digital warriors.

In conclusion, the threats to international peace and stability are multifaceted, from non-state actors to state sponsored malicious activities in all medium of warfare using kinetic to non-kinetic means. In the 21st century, Cyber Space is now become a new medium, where the states are pouring their vital national resources to get utmost commercial benefits. Due to heavy reliance and stakes in the cyber space, it has become a new medium of warfare, and there are fears that the next Pearl Harbor would be a Digital Pearl Harbor.

Although, the cyberspace is now a new medium of warfare; but, according to Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema, the counters of cyber warfare are not really identifiable as well as innumerable non-state actors actions in the domain, which is making a cyber space very difficult to handle. Therefore, there is a pressing requirement to establish transparent, verifiable, effective, and credible international cyber security regime to prevent the state and non-state actor to utilize the cyber space to launch cyber-espionage and cyber-attacks.

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