Top U.S. newspapers have been recently targeted with organized hacking operations and digital “attacks” by parties allegedly based in China. The aim was attaining the secrets of these media organizations and its employees as well as spying on them both commercially and cognitively.
At the same time, officials of the U.S. Secretaries of Defense and National Security supported the principle of launching “pre-emptive electronic attacks” if the country confronts a wide digital attack even though the electronic “rules of engagement” require the prior approval of the U.S. president himself.
Therefore, as technology develops quick means of communication and bigger digital networks, the internet is transformed from being a mere need into a human right, and its manifold of virtual world ought to be protected urging the need for electronic “battles” to defend it. Protecting one country’s virtual space has become similar to issues of sovereignty and necessary to defend its vital interests, strategic facilities and others.
As for the Middle East, some media outlets (also other outlets) were hacked.
The digital “attacks” targeted satellite transmission devices, frequencies, databases, e-mail and communication converters and others. These actions aimed to cause intended disruptions, attempted to block the transmission of news, information and photographs from the public opinion and limit the citizens’ longing for freedom of expression, communication and interaction…And most importantly, these actions aimed to blackmail and intimidate certain media outlets for rejecting to adopt the point of view of the attackers.
Terrorists were first in introducing e-wars
Unfortunately, various terrorist organizations were among the first to introduce “digital war” to our region. They exploited the internet to market their ideologies, communicated with their scattered members, lured young men, recruited volunteers, spread news linked to “jihadi” operations that include murder, kidnapping, decapitating and planting explosives as well as other bloody “achievements” made against the “dark powers.”
Government efforts to fight extremism and terrorism have certainly yielded results in a number of Arab countries. But the challenge also lies in the current and future capability to avoid digital attacks, piracy and organized crime via the internet and to effectively confront them and protect these digital facilities, equipment and important infrastructure.
The challenge also lies in maintaining the treasures of the databases of citizens, countries and official administrations, particularly in maintaining security, defense, financial, banking and administrative and judicial databases linked to official documents and records.
So, are we ready for the future’s “wars” in addition to the traditional, nuclear, biological and sectarian ones?
(Mazen Hayek is a MarComms & Media practitioner in MENA; weekly op-ed columnist in "An-Nahar" Lebanon, he can be followed on Twitter: @HayekMG)