Radical Instrument

IT is changing the exercise of power. Radical Instrument is picking up the signals.

Posts Tagged ‘information warfare

Al Jazeera crowdsources Gaza reporting

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Al Jazeera has effectively circumvented Israel’s ban on reporters in Gaza:  turn anyone with a cell phone or web access into a reporter. 

Al Jazeera Labs has adopted the Ushahidi Engine to set up its “Mapping the War in Gaza” service, which allows users to view, submit, and verify reports posted from both “formal” and informal sources. It isn’t perfect – I was able to “verify” an incident accidentally, as I clicked through the site – but it provides a fascinating model for both information sourcing and information consumption in a rapidly changing situation. By using the site’s filters, for instance, I was able to learn about (a) the possible killing of a senior Hamas figure today, (b) the IDF’s mandated shutdown of cell phone use by its personnel a few hours in advance of the ground invasion, and (c) a Human Rights Watch claim about the possible use by the IDF of white phosphorous.

Practitioners of military “information operations” should really think about tearing up the rulebook. Take the IDF, for instance.  Some questionable experiments with social media aside, it’s resorting to tactics – like the ban on media access, or the takeover of a Hamas television station – that are either simply dubious (how many people in Gaza are even watching television?) or are likely to antagonize any remaining international support. The fundamental flaw seems to be that the IDF is basing its information strategy on an outdated premise of how information is produced and consumed – and this effort by Al Jazeera Labs provides an interesting contrast.

P.S. – Because of what we’re seeing today, watch for the smartphone to evolve as a critical piece of a soldier’s kit in militaries worldwide over the next decade.

Written by Mark

January 11, 2009 at 1:23 am

We need a new metaphor for…

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…”Cyber-attack,” “cyber-war,” or anything similar. No need to pile on to the technical criticism of this LA Times story, which was appropriately Slashdotted. It does highlight the need for clearer thinking about how to deal with the borderless nature of ICT.

Does the presence of malware in a government system really constitute an “attack,” if said malware was “inadvertently loaded” via flash drive and had been circulating in the private sector for months? OK, I think that’s easy. The harder questions follow: 

Has any government articulated how it would distinguish between an actual attack using ICT, and a criminal act? Does a state-sponsored scan of another government’s system – if you can prove it – constitute “legitimate” reconnaissance and intelligence gathering? How should states respond to each other’s activities, whether scans or actual penetrations? What constitutes an act of hostility? What happens when a state harbors (i.e., no extradition treaties) an individual malware producer? 

Expect more media breathlessness – and more bad cyber-words – until questions like these get sorted out.

Written by Mark

November 30, 2008 at 5:00 am