In the cyber arena

Information warfare is by no means a new phenomenon. Manipulation, subterfuge, eavesdropping, concealment, disruption and destruction of information are all part of human behaviour. Information has always been used in different ways in military, socio-economic and political contexts to influence opponents, friendly forces and the domestic population. But information warfare has of course also evolved along with computers, internet and mobile communications. All the major powers are giving this kind of warfare an increasingly prominent, and sometimes decisive, role in conflicts. Every major military and political conflict now includes cyber components.

The Gulf War of 1990-91 demonstrated a radical change in military strategy. Drawing from theories of command and control, the US-dominated coalition force attacked strategic Iraqi hubs such as staff, radar stations and networks. Critical parts of Iraq's infrastructure were knocked out. Once the Iraqi chain of command was broken, the system quickly fell apart. Less than 100 hours after the first allied tanks crossed the border into Kuwait, the military phase of the war was over.

Since the Iraqi weapons arsenal was largely Soviet-built, Iraqi inferiority came as a shock for the Russian military as well as for China. Saddam Hussein's army was modern, and one of the region's largest. Doctrines based on Cold War structures had become obsolete. The age of the mass army was definitely over and a new approach was necessary. A new paradigm, based on information and networks, was under way. Achieving information superiority over the enemy, and depriving the enemy of access to accurate information, came to be regarded as decisive factors.

As a result of the rapid IT development and the experience of the Gulf War, the US adopted a new military concept called "network-centric warfare". A report published in 1996 described some of the basic characteristics of the concept, which is based on military structures being viewed as a large network of staff and command centres, units, sensors and weapon systems, linked to each other physically and logically. The US defence department created a global network of interconnected networks of computers and sensors, called the Global Information Grid (GIG), to be utilised as a resource for coordination and mobilisation.

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