Thursday, November 20, 2014

the latent nature of global information warfare

springer |  Let us return to the nature of information warfare. In the past, war has always and only been real, in the system + model sense, like the bed in which you sleep and the apple you eat. The hard facts of war were inevitably accompanied by their informational shadows: the human shouting, the smell of horses, the sounds of trumpets in battles, the rhythm of machineguns, the pitched whistles of bombs falling from the sky, the smell of napalm, the marks left by the tanks’ tracks. For a short time, in the eighties, passive mass media and digital consumerism made us mistakenly think that war could be experienced by the public as virtual: a televised or computerized game, involving only representations to which nothing corresponded, like shadows without objects, simulacra in Baudrillard’s terminology. Thus, in 1991,4 Baudrillard argued in The Gulf War Did Not Take Place that the hi-tech fighting on the American side during the first Gulf War had transformed a conflict into propaganda and mass-mediated experience. The analysis was correct both in perceiving a difference and in identifying that difference in the decoupling between the system and the model. But it was wrong in selecting models as the new battlefields. Global information warfare is not virtual. It is mostly latent, that is, it is in the world but not experienced as part of the world. It is a war without shadows. You cannot see it, and cannot hear it, it silently happens everyday, can hit anyone anywhere, and we can all be its unaware victims. Take for instance distributed denial-of-service attacks. According to Arbor Networks, more than 2,000 of DDoS occur worldwide every day.5 Their number is increasing and more and more countries are involved that are not officially at war with each other. Similar attacks are very cheap. According to TrendMicro Research a week-long DDoS attack, capable of taking a small organization offline, can cost as little as $150 in the underground market. This is just an example. Conflicts in the infosphere—not just DDoS attacks, but also trade wars, currency wars, patent wars, marketing wars, and other silent forms of informational battles to win hearts, minds, and wallets—are increasingly neither real nor virtual, but latent to most of their victims. They are nonetheless dangerous and wasteful. They require special interfaces to be perceived. They will require a special sensitivity to be eradicated.