Beyond bombs is digital battlefield: Ukraine/Russia, Israel/Palestine/Iran conflicts as case studies

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Beyond bombs is digital battlefield: /Russia, Israel/Palestine/Iran conflicts as case studies …C0NTINUE READING HERE >>>

By Haruna Chiroma 

 

In modern military engagements, the traditional of guns, missiles, and bombs are commonly employed to neutralise the enemy and their assets. These conflicts often arise from disagreements between states, territories, or other entities, leading to armed confrontations.

When the term “war” is mentioned, it typically conjures images of weaponised combat. However, contemporary military operations have evolved far beyond conventional weaponry, leveraging to an unprecedented degree. While technology played a role in World War II, with the emergence of computers and instances of hacking to decipher enemy codes and aid in ballistic calculations, today's military landscape is marked by greater reliance on technological advancements. The deployment of technology in warfare during this era is more prominent than in any previous period, primarily owing to the remarkable advancements in computing technology, encompassing both hardware and software.

In the 21st century, it's extremely rare to encounter military equipment devoid of computing devices, particularly embedded systems or specialised purpose computers tailored for controlling, automating tasks, and operations. These systems rely on software to synchronise hardware components and enabling seamless military operations. This prevalence of technology integration emphasises the heightened significance of technological warfare in this era. Chips stand as the indispensable core of these embedded or specialised computers. Without it, a digital device cannot function, as the chips serves as its brain, executing tasks that enable the system to perform crucial functions and routing tasks.

Chips are small semiconductor devices that contain many interconnected electronic components. Chips are used in different military equipment and other military digital appliances, to perform a wide range of functions such as processing data, storing information, and controlling operations. They are essential components in modern technology and play a fundamental role in the functioning of military equipment. The production of contemporary military equipment requires both software and hardware technologies.

From the perspective of hardware, consider a case study of military conflict between Russia and Ukraine. At the onset of the conflict, many Western nations, including the , , and certain Asian countries, oppose Russia. Prior to the conflict, Russia imports chips for military equipment and other electronic devices from suppliers in the USA, Europe, , Taiwan, among others. Knowing the critical role of chips in military equipment manufacturing, the USA and other chip suppliers to Russia imposed sanctions, depriving Russia of access to chips needed for developing military equipment. With this Russia faced a chip shortage due to supply disruptions. Sensing an opportunity, China nearly doubled the price of chips to indirectly supply Russia. Currently, China reportedly provides nearly 90 per cent of Russia's chips, according to Tom's Hardware.

In the current military conflict between Iran and Israel, both sides heavily relied on technology in their strategies. Israel employs advanced military defence systems to counter ballistic missiles, which rely on specialised chips for their manufacturing. On the other hand, Iran utilises drones, ballistic missiles, and automated rockets in its attacks against Israel, all of which require embedded system chips and software – operating system. Israel asserts that its defence systems have successfully intercepted many of the ballistic missiles and attack drones launched by the Iranian military. This highlights the critical role that technological capabilities play in modern warfare and the ongoing dynamics of conflict in the region.

From the perspective of software, alleged state-backed hacking group known as Sandworm in Russia has been actively targeting critical infrastructure in Ukraine. Recently, they launched an attack on Ukraine's largest telecommunication network operators, Kyivstar, causing widespread disruption in communication services across the country. Sandworm justified their actions by alleging that Kyivstar provided services to the Ukrainian military. Researchers have identified a total of 14 state-backed hacking groups operating from various countries that have been targeting Russia through cyber attacks. A state-backed hacking group allegedly linked to Ukraine's intelligence directorate targeted Consulting, a Russian information systems company, compromising its IT infrastructure. The cyber attack involves servers, databases, and over 60TB of data, resulting in significant disruptions.

The US successfully intervened to disrupt more than 1000 routers on internet compromised by Russia-backed hackers. Additionally, Christopher Wray FBI director highlighted that Russia's military intelligence has been actively gathering intelligence on the US energy sector. The modus operandi of cyber attacks typically involves thorough reconnaissance of the target domain before launching the offensive. Sandworm, in particular, has claimed responsibility for the recent attacks on government and banking websites in Ukraine.

Reports also indicate that hackers with ties to Iran and Hezbollah have intensified their targeting of Israeli entities. The frequency of the cyber attacks has surged threefold following Israeli military actions, particularly those affecting Palestinian civilians, including women and children, as well as vulnerable locations such as hospitals, refugee camps, and schools.

Gonjeshke Darande, a hacker group reportedly associated with Israeli military intelligence, has allegedly launched cyber attacks resulting in the shutdown of gas stations in Iran, according to their claims. They claimed responsibility for disabling 70 per cent of Iran's gas stations in retaliation for attacks on Israel by Iran. However, Iranian state TV quoted the Iranian Minister of Oil, attributing the gas station disruptions to software malfunctions.

A Washington advisory has highlighted that a group of hackers with connections to Iran has been focusing their cyber attacks on critical infrastructure in the USA, particularly targeting transportation and healthcare systems.

Intercepting the strategic information of adversaries during military operations gives a significant blow to troops, impeding the successful launch of attacks when crucial information is compromised. A conversation among German officers discussing attacks on a bridge connecting the Russian and Ukrainian peninsulas, as well as the supply of missiles to the Ukrainian military, was intercepted. This intercepted conversation has been extensively circulated on social media platforms in Russia. Accusations are being directed at Russia for allegedly spying on the German secret service.

The military of modern days must strategise beyond conventional guns, missiles, and bombs to include forming a formidable cyber army, minimising reliance on foreign hardware and software, establishing effective cybersecurity defense systems, and protecting critical infrastructures.

 

Haruna Chiroma, Asst. Professor of Artificial Intelligence    University of Hafr Al Batin, , [email protected]

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