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By David Onmeje
Terrorism is a global threat that knows no border, religion or tribe. Hence the special focus it has received from the international community in the last decade or more. In today’s world the global threat of terrorism is increasingly unpredictable and its constantly morphing nature has established it as one of the biggest threats to the survival of mankind on Earth.
The international community is united in the belief that terrorism is not a problem that can be solved by one country alone but by a multinational coalition that is united against the threat. There have been diverse debates on the fight against terrorism and the violation of human rights; the validity of some of these perspectives does not negate the preeminence of security- national and global. Asides this sharp disagreement by a few member states, there is nevertheless a unity of purpose amongst world leaders on the need to defeat terrorism totally.
A few years ago , Al Qeada was the major and most notorious threat the world was facing at the time, latter it became the Taliban, then ISIS, then came Boko Haram, plus a host of other regional based terrorist organisations. The dynamics and face of Global terrorism keeps changing, hence the need for constant change in the tactics being adopted to tackle the scourge.
As the world moves to a society ever more reliant on technology, a new trend that seems to be emerging now is cyber terrorism; a simple definition of this new phenomenon by Wikipedia is “deployment by known terrorist organizations of disruption attacks against information systems for the primary purpose of creating alarm, panic, or physical disruption.”
Though there are other broader definitions by same Wikipedia that includes; “the use of the Internet to conduct violent acts that result in, or threaten, loss of life or significant bodily harm, in order to achieve political gains through intimidation”, it is also sometimes considered an act of cyber terrorism where terrorist activities, including acts of deliberate, large-scale disruption of computer networks, especially of personal computers attached to the Internet by means of tools such as computer viruses, computer worms, phishing, and other malicious software and hardware methods and programming scripts.
The summation of all these definitions to me is simply; “The use of the internet to harm other people, society, organizations or Nations”. This phenomenon which was hitherto not given much attention is now emerging as one of the most potent and destructive warfare tool available to terrorist organisations.
In the last few years powerful nations that could not be attacked physically perhaps because of their military might have found themselves being attacked through cyber technology , in many cases from countries much smaller. The United States of America for example suffered many cyber attacks in the last two years that caused major setbacks for them, financially and sometimes politically.
Many such cyber attacks revealed information that some observers argued interfered with the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections in the US. Russia was accused to be the mastermind of those attacks. In 2017 a cyber attack on Equifax one of the largest credit bureaus in the US, caused the loss of data of over 145m customers to cyber criminals. The financial loss was estimated to be in billions of dollars. This attacks can have devastating effects on Strong Nations how much more developing nations .
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, there were discussions on the role of ICT in the attack. Though it is common knowledge that the attack was not carried out through the internet. The internet was used extensively in the preparation for the attacks. The use of the ICT for management of information and communication has also had a progressive effect on terrorist activities. Today Terrorist use ICT as a tool for gathering information on targets, publication of training materials, recruiting new members from across the globe and for raising fund and financing their activities.
Terrorist organisations are now known to plan and communicate on the internet with encrypted data making it hard for law enforcements to decode or intercept the messages.
The Dynamics are changing fast. There are predictions in some quarters that the next generations of wars may just be cyber without a single bullet being shot. That’s why countries world over must begin to prepare for this likely event. Military warfare and their operation are increasingly depending on digital technology as a major part of their processes.
I must commend the Chief of Army Staff (COAS)Lt General Tukur Buratai for his several smart initiatives at combating terrorism with the aid of emerging technologies. Earlier in the year during the army day celebration 2018 at Mungonu in Maiduguri, The army show cased a few of the equipment it had made by itself for its operations, this was the first time the army was having such array of equipment made by itself amongst them a technologically advanced Mines Resistant Ambush Protection Vehicle (MRAP) .
The COAS reiterated that he was going to give a lot of focus to the research arm of the Nigeria Army. The target is to make the army technologically self-reliant. Gen. Buratai’s push for the use of technology in the fight against terrorism is a step in the right direction which must be supported by all. If we don’t prepare early for this next phase of security we may be caught unaware as was the case in 2009 when the activities of the terrorist group Boko Haram took a new dimension.
The recently established Cyber Warfare Command by the COAS is a very excellent step, it shows that the COAS is abreast of the new realities of modern warfare. Many of the successes the Army recorded in the fight against Boko Haram I understand were largely also due to the push by the COAS to include ICT in the fight against terrorism. There has been an improvement in area surveillance due to the types of technology being deployed by the army. The precision of their Unmanned Aerial Vehicles has improved greatly there by delivering far better results.
The Cyber warfare command is a very positive addition by the army that should be emulated by other security agencies to further enlarge the scope and capacity of the Nigerian security agencies to handle this coming challenge of cyber terrorism. The fact that Nigeria has a COAS that is excited about the need to invest in more ICT solutions to tackle the terrorism challenges being faced by the country is a very welcome development
I understand the Cyber warfare command is the first in Africa. Since the army under the leadership of Lt Gen Buratai has helped Nigeria to be at the forefront of this innovation, We must strive to continue to invest in the improvement of our cyber warfare infrastructure. Starting projects and programs have not really been our problem in this country our main challenge is in maintaining such projects or programs.
Gen. Buratai is demonstrating to his colleagues that a modern General must be intellectually savvy and forward-thinking go confront the multifaceted challenge of terrorism and innovation remains the key.
Onmeje is an ICT expert based in the United Kingdom.