Speaking at this year’s Association of Old Crow’s Electronic Warfare (EW) Asia conference being held in Singapore, 29-30 January, David Stupples, professor of electronic and radio systems, and director of EW research at City University in London, discussed aspects of the increasing convergence of the cyber and EW domains and its implications for nations and societies: “The Cyber and Electromagnetic [CEMA] spectrums are coming together and working against us. This convergence culminates in Information Warfare [IW].” Prof Stupples examined how this convergence could affect nations and populations on and off the battlefield. “How is this impacting us?” he asked, examining the CEMA convergence and its impact on kinetic warfare: “Will CEMA operations come before kinetic warfare?” he posited: “If we can destroy countries with just cyber operations. Do we need an aggressive response to a threat?”
Prof Stupples underscored that IW operations are now an operational reality and a standard aspect of the strategic competition between nations: “You’ve seen disinformation going on all around the world. You’ve seen this in elections.”
Citing the accusations of Russian interference in the US presidential election in 2016 and the UK’s referendum on her membership of the European Union that same year, Prof Stupples stressed that, “you have seen this disinformation working. Russia is probably the world leaders in this.”
Worryingly, he argued that the onward trend towards the Internet of Things (IOT), by which machines and systems are increasingly networked with one another could intensify both the frequency and severity of CEMA and IW operations: “We are going to make it easier for (adversaries) with the IOT. The vectors and routes into our systems are going to be very easy, as there will be so many of them.”
This proliferation of vectors could mean that the price of access to a country’s cyber infrastructure, and hence its national infrastructure, could diminish while the returns for the aggressor increases: “If we can affect your economy we can make you do as we want. We can attack communications networks, and that will paralyse an economy.”
A sobering statistic cited by the professor noted that by 2020, up to 100 billion items could be connected to the IOT. Neither are such nefarious operational and strategic aspirations restricted to Russia. Prof. Stupples stated that the People’s Republic of China has built up an advanced array of IW capabilities, alongside her investment in its kinetic platforms and subsystems.
Dr Thomas Withington