Electronic Jihad

War goes digital.
From the February 2001 Trumpet Print Edition

Early last October, Israeli saboteurs crashed the Palestinian albawaba.com website. Within hours, “electronic Jihad” was declared. In just the first month of the latest Israeli-Palestinian violence, over 60 Israeli and 50 Arab sites were attacked, according to the St. Petersburg Times (Nov. 29, 2000). The article reported that both sides are actively recruiting computer terrorists to inflict greater harm.

Today, over 1.1 million of Israel’s approximately 5.8 million citizens have access to the Internet. Israel is a technology-rich and technology-dependent nation that is especially vulnerable to cyberattacks against its economy and military and information systems. Recent attacks against the Knesset, Israeli Defense Force and Foreign Ministry caused the government to solicit assistance from the fbi, cia and telecommunications giant at&t.

The threat posed to Israel, or any other nation, is two-fold. First, there is concern over enemy forces attacking computer systems. Secondly, Israel must be concerned about its own citizens waging war without sponsorship or control of the national government.

The Israeli government is already working to control unsanctioned cyberattacks by its citizens against the Arab community. It is an enforcement nightmare because of the inherent anonymity that the Internet provides, and because almost any individual armed with a computer, access to the Internet and a few minutes to search out some hacking software can prolong and intensify the war.

In the ongoing battle between the Israelis and the Palestinians, this new type of warfare is changing the face of conflict. The Israelis and Palestinians have long been known for fighting with guns, rocks and advanced military weapons. Now, there is a concerted effort on both sides to use the Internet to deface websites and launch “denial of service” attacks.

Denial-of-service attacks overburden computer hardware, such as web servers. It is the equivalent of making thousands of simultaneous phone calls to a company that has only one switchboard operator—the operator simply cannot answer all of the calls, and legitimate customers are denied service. In the case of websites, they may crash and experience other technical difficulties, making them temporarily unreachable.

Although these attacks are relatively low-tech and represent more of an annoyance than a threat to national security, they do point to a bigger issue. Civilians are educating themselves, via the Internet, on how to execute these attacks. Soon both sides will undoubtedly advance to more sophisticated tools and techniques. Then the targets will change from websites to whole networks of computers, the ultimate goal being to control, sabotage, steal or destroy the data and systems they contain.

Implications for All Nations

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is creating awareness of how war is, and will be, waged electronically. According to Lt. Gen. Edward Anderson, deputy commander in chief at U.S. Space Command, “We see three emerging threats: ballistic missiles, cyberwarfare and space control.”

The electronic war being fought in Israel today adds to the deepening concern about an individual’s ability to cause global disorder. Grave concern is rising because of the fact that many of the attacks on the Israeli websites have been initiated from the U.S!

The ongoing information war in Israel caused the fbi’s National Infrastructure Protection Center to issue the following warning: “Due to the credible threat of terrorist acts in the Middle East region and the conduct of these Web attacks, [users] should exercise increased vigilance to the possibility that U.S. government and private sector websites may become potential targets.”

Will the Middle Eastern electronic warfare spread overseas? As Internet access and usage multiplies, the risk increases exponentially.

John Deutch, former director of the cia, ranked information warfare the third most serious risk to American national security. In his view, only proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorist use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons threaten the United States more.

In a November 2000 nato symposium on information warfare, August Hanning, head of the bnd, Germany’s intelligence service, said that “governments around the world were training hacker-soldiers, capable of doing anything from harassing opponents to spying and launching attacks by remote control on vital infrastructure” (Agence France Presse, Nov. 4, 2000).

A Serious Threat?

Unquestionably, the United States and Britain once dominated the world military scene thanks in part to their superior technology. This same technology also empowered these nations to rise in economic superiority. But this advantage is diminishing as other nations advance technologically.

“Foreign nations are developing information warfare programs because they see that they cannot defeat the United States in a head-to-head military encounter, and they believe that information operations are a way to strike at what they perceive as America’s Achilles heel—our reliance on information technology to control critical government and private sector systems” (Congressional Statement: “nipc Cyber Threat Assessment,” Oct. 1999).

In a March 1, 2000, congressional statement on the National Infrastructure Protection Center, the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities was told, “The development of the Internet and our dependence on information technology poses one of the most difficult challenges to our national security and defense planners since the advent of the airplane forced planners to worry about controlling not just the battlefield, but the airspace over the battlefield.”

This has led to an interesting conundrum. The countries that have the most effective information warfare capabilities also tend to have the most intricate information networks, thus making them the most vulnerable to attack. “This is one of the dangerous paradoxes of IW [information warfare]. The better you are at attack, the more vulnerable you are to attack. That explains why so much secrecy surrounds IW in America today and why there is a genuine fear that America will be uniquely vulnerable in this new warfare” (The Next World War, p. 155).

The U.S. Department of Defense (dod) has a reserve unit dedicated to probing the dod websites for “sensitive or classified information that shouldn’t be posted on the Internet.” Federal Computer Week reported in May 2000, “…the team uncovered more than ten instances in which information about Pentagon war plans was posted. The team also discovered information on computer system vulnerabilities and more than 20 detailed maps of dod facilities.” One of the maps “included detailed plans of a facility known as ‘Site R,’ which serves as the alternate Joint Communications Center for U.S. nuclear forces.”

This is one example of critical information being carelessly placed in insecure areas. It is only a matter of time before these mistakes are used against us.

A Real Threat

Trumpet Editor in Chief Gerald Flurry wrote in a January 1995 Personal, “America is the greatest superpower this world has ever known. But we have a very vulnerable point in our military—our own Achilles heel…. Exploiting this vulnerable point may trigger the greatest shock in the history of warfare!… Computer dependence is the Western world’s Achilles heel, and within a few years this weakness could be tested to the full.”

Writing to the end-time nations of Israel (primarily the United States and former British Commonwealth nations), the Prophet Ezekiel warned of our coming destruction: “Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land” (Ezek. 7:1-2). Ezekiel went on to describe unimaginable suffering and destruction befalling our nations for not heeding God’s warning.

Ezekiel makes reference to the alarm of war sounding with unexpected results: “They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none goeth to the battle: for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof” (v. 14). Mr. Flurry wrote, “It seems everybody was expecting our people to go into battle. But the greatest tragedy imaginable occurred! Nobody went to battle—even though the trumpet was blown!” (ibid.). Will electronic warfare be the cause?

Electronic Jihad has already been declared. The nations of end-time Israel have established powerful and complex network infrastructures—ones that are next to impossible to defend! So the question stands: Will we be caught off guard when the alarm of war sounds?