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Cyber Warfare in 21st Century

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By Engr.  Mansoor A Malik

The last quarter of the 20th century was very exciting for young engineering professionals graduating out from the top engineering schools at the global level. Especially more so, in the Electrical Engineering (EE) field. Whereas, the Egyptian mechanical engineers gave the initial impetus to the Egyptian Army to break the invincible Barlev Lines and cross over into the Israeli territory for the first time in the 1973 Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War by use of high pressure technology, it was finally the Electronics Assets of US/Israel both in Space and FEBA (Forward edge battle area) that helped Gen Sharon to encircle the Third Egyptian Army three times its size and halted their advance towards Tel Aviv. Electronic Warfare was then after knocking the doors of not only advanced countries but also mid-level ones like India, Pakistan, Brazil, Turkey, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia etc. etc.

Then came the maddening Star Wars Programme (Officially designated as Strategic Defense Initiative, SDI) during the Reagan era which brought in trillions of US tax payers dollars into the universities research projects. New technologies started mushrooming from the universities and R&D labs producing leading edge hardware and software products not only for the military but also for its civilian applications thru the Dual Use Technology concept. The Internet being one of the most popular of these off-set technologies. Towards the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century the trend amongst the EEs’ shifted from the ever growing numbers of Hardware Engineers to the emerging field of Software Engineers. The Network Centric Warfare adopted by US military in Afghan War soon after 9/11 tragedy brought home even to the Europeans the Shock and Awe of the new technology applications in the theatre of war far removed from the Control Rooms situated in the US mainland.

A great boon for the software engineers came when the Battle Field Management Systems started getting adopted by militaries all over the world in which all available hardware assets available to the field commanders were integrated for their optimum utilization. This was the beginning of the first generation of software engineers in the service of the military in a C4I (Command, control, communication, countermeasure, intelligence) environment. With the rise of Theatre Nuclear Weapons and their operational deployment posed a serious challenge for the software engineers and their field commanders to protect these strategic assets from enemy software penetrations. The contours of the Cyber Warfare came into the limelight for military strategists in order to deny enemy actions thru disruption of these communication networks.

Space is fast becoming the battle ground for the advanced countries. Not only Spy Satellites have mushroomed all over but also Killer Satellites have occupied the vantage positions in space, thanks to the Star Wars programme. No country is immune from these Attacker Satellites including Cyber attacks. The latest Stuxnet Worm attack in Iran is a warning shot for all mid level countries who want to jealously guard their sovereignty from the onslaught of the advanced countries. We may have to move back from network centricity to de-centralization or hierarchical software architecture. The fourth dimension (space) after the land sea and air resources has become essential for expanded role of Surveillance (S) and Reconnaissance (R) missions in giving the necessary depth to the decision makers sitting at the National Command Posts. The Drone missions being part of this SR programme at the lower end of the spectrum have led to the new concept of C4ISR integration in all the four dimensions.

This new phenomena of Network Centricity of all our assets whether Conventional or Strategic in Space, Air, Land, Sea is an open invitation to Cyber Hackers for attacking the weaker and undefended Software Territories of the System in place. The right strategies have to be built into the robust Software Architectures at the design level to identify the unwanted intruders and conveniently send it packing or diverting it to recursive loops of the Fire Walls in place. More and more investment is therefore being channeled in building robust software designs under military specifications utilizing the best available human resources in order to achieve the given objectives in Time and Space.

The 21st century battle fields would not be defined only by hardware availability but by intact software capability and the synergies between the two. After all the digital battle fields consist of billions of zeros and ones at the low end  Source Code level and their disturbance either thru virus attacks or High Radiation Environment created by High Beam Weapons or Nuclear Attack is very much a possibility. A simulation of the Electronic Battlefield Environment becomes most essential in having the upper hand in any encounter. Most of the time the simulation results would indicate Hardening of the Software and Hardware capabilities in a derived situation. Cyber warfare in the 21st century would be ultimately pitting software engineering capabilities of each warring nation and may prove decisive towards victory or defeat.

Mansoor Malik, is Member Board of Advisors, Opinion Maker. In brief, he has been Director General with over 33 year of experience in planning, establishing and managing national level, strategic, high-tech organizations. Director General, Marketing & Industrial Relations Organization (MIRO). Commandant, College of Aeronautical Engineering, Risalpur.

Senior Engineering Manager, PAF Project where he was responsible for the smooth induction of F-16 Aircraft Weapons System in the PAF and making them fully operational.

His experience is very versatile in different fields of technology and education. He is consultant to number of organizations and the Universities of Pakistan.

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