The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is embarking on a project to beef up the state’s information warfare (IW) counter-strategies.
The council says it is developing a world-class science, engineering and technology capability in the IW arena.
CSIR defence, peace, safety and security manager Jackie Phahlamohlaka could not provide the specific costs of the project, but explained it would encompass a combination of research, modelling and simulation.
The council defines IW as a wide description of offensive and defensive activities that entail the use of ICT. This type of warfare involves collecting, analysing and manipulation of data and information, and using it to target strategic points in a country.
Phahlamohlaka goes on to say the main impetus for the project was derived from a three-week wave of cyber attacks on Estonia in 2007. The attacks were targeted at the Web sites of Estonian organisations, including the Estonian Parliament, banks, ministries, newspapers and broadcasters.
Media reports state the attacks ranged from distributed denial-of-service-type attacks, to using botnets for the purpose of mass spam distribution. A disgruntled ethnic Russian in Estonia was found to be responsible for the attacks.
“Traditional boundaries that used to define countries are no longer important because of the advance in information and communications technology,” says Phahlamohlaka. “People have become cyber citizens.”
The Estonian incident showed threats will most likely come from rogue individuals, criminal organisations and state-sponsored hackers (espionage), he notes.
Phahlamohlaka says the command and control capabilities of the South African Defence Force (SANDF) are the most likely to be attacked by cyber terrorists. The capabilities include activities related to planning, tasking, control and situational awareness.
SANDF spokesman Colonel Petrus Motlhabane says the Directorate of Information Warfare, headed by acting director Colonel JP Hefer, has been tasked with compiling the philosophy, strategy, doctrine, policy and master plans for IW in the SANDF.
“It is both a national and military strategic objective to leverage the advantage posed by modern communication, computer and information systems, and to mitigate the vulnerabilities introduced by the presence and use of these systems.”
SANDF has been mulling the IW threat for a while, and now considers an IW attack as an assault on the territorial integrity of the republic and an act of war.