The Virtual Guerrilla and Non-State Actors

By Dialogo
November 30, 2012


The virtual wars initiated in this century revolutionized the traditional model of conflicts, where warlike activities are just another option. The so-called “Clean War” that does not inflict structural damage, has become a broader spectrum in the theater of operations, and ruptured the monopoly that used to be exclusive to the government via the Armed Forces or even intelligence agencies.

Currently, non-state actors from five continents, jointly and individually, have the same technical capabilities to actively participate at any given moment in either non-desired interventions or support of counterintelligence activities. At this time, this participation is specifically restricted to confidential documents and to threat attacks against government sites and service-providing companies. This is a form of virtual war with ideological interests, against different countries simultaneously. However, this situation may change with the manifestation of other digital piracy groups with more than just the purpose of fighting for freedom of speech, such as the opposition to any type of digital restriction.

There are many recent examples of this capability. In November, at the beginning of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a group of hackers supporting the Hamas movement attacked the Israeli Ministry of Defense while trying to penetrate into the anti-missile systems in the Iron Dome. Likewise, the group known as Anonymous initiated an operation code named OpIsrael, through which they took several sites down in retaliation to the announcement that the telecommunications in the Gaza Strip would be interrupted. They even edited a manual destined to Palestinians, with alternative instructions for its recovery.

The Swedish Ministry of Defense and several public agencies, including news agencies, were also the target for a series of attacks by Anonymous, who support Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. In Australia, there was an attempt to break into the database stored in the Australian Security Intelligence Organization’s and the Department of Defense’s site, however, without compromising confidential information.

The United States and Russia are two instances out of many other countries that are constantly attacked by the virtual war, and although they have recruited hackers to assist with improving their security and defense systems, for each step forward in the creation of new codes, many others are violated, fueling a vicious cycle for more technology.

This situation led experts to consider that virtual wars, although clean, may be more damaging than conventional war. Within this perspective, we can include the virtual guerilla, with the difference that it does not have the distinguished asymmetric characteristic from prior decades, making it a more effective threat.

*Andre Luís Woloszyn, Strategic Affairs Analyst, specialist in low and medium intensity conflicts.



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