What is War? Baby don’t troll me, no more.

“War…War never changes” Fallout has been silently screaming that fact at us since the late nineties. While a lot has been written on this new “Hybrid-War”, I think these are the same tactics that have been in play since antiquity, we haven’t reinvented the wheel, we are just realizing we don’t need the wheel in the first place. Specifically, why would I need to physically breach an asset, say a power plant, when I can just shut it down remotely, from across the planet?  Or why go through the headaches of traditional misinformation, and political campaigns when the same results can be had on twitter with bot farms, troll armies, and paid ads? I know one thing, steer clear of the “little green men”.

Turn on the lights (Information) and the roaches scatter.

I have a vested interest in what is going on in Syria, while in the Persian Gulf, my strike group was “re positioned to deal with” the global bombshell of Assad releasing Sarin gas on his own people; Twitter is the reason that evil didn’t go unnoticed, because people flocked to social media to get the horrific news out to the world, the truth. The flow of information is the component of war that I propose has fundamentally changed; now, when data and metrics are oozing around the world from server to server, machine to machine, person to person, all you need is to jack in. If you can control the information being dripped to a population, you can control the narrative. The constant barrage of “fake news” is some peoples only source of it, and that shapes their view of the economy, politics, and events in general.

Who are the "little green men"?

Ukraine is seeing this misinformation most from their “helpful neighbor”, the Russians. Separatist (Russian operatives) broadcast propaganda TV, send demoralizing SMS, and sow dissent among the local population. Then there is the sinister stuff, like shutting down power for hundreds of thousands of civilians, or the annexation of the Crimean peninsula, events that happened just 4 short years ago. That is where the “little green men” come in, or at least the idea of them; they are state sponsored operators, causing mayhem and fanning the flames of conflict. Cutting the power, disrupting information media, and annexing a peninsula that gives that country access to a the Black Sea, all sound like acts of war to me. Of course, Russia denies sending any troops to Ukraine, but Nato is taking it seriously.

Lights out

If you think these things only happen in faraway lands consider this; Dallas Texas is 6,930 miles from Damascus, that’s roughly a 24 hour flight time, but it’s not insurmountable, not to mention the rise of hyper-sonic missiles that could make that distance in minutes. There is no doubt that Russia interfered with our election, but did you know they have already been tinkering in the US power grid? My ally Alex Hollings has an incredible article about the dangers this single event could bring, please check it out. Through his dissertation “ Darkness and confusion may be the biggest killer in future wars—will anyone be safe”, he references a study that estimated “90% of Americans” would perish in the event of a coordinated EMP strike,  which he argues similar results “ could be done quietly with keystrokes from a basement anywhere in the world”, and I absolutely agree. It sounds banal, but you can play a role in stopping instances like this, most of the time when exploits are present on a system, website, or application, things just don’t work right, or you have strange issues with innocuous task; so “if you see something, say something”, you just may be the helpful hint that leads your bank to figure out they have fallen victim to XSS.

In the wake of Russia’s nudges, Belarus has created legislation stating the presence of  “little green men” would constitute an act of war, I believe that is a step in the right direction. The democratic people of this planet should anticipate this new way of exploiting old weakness’ and “call a spade a spade”; when people lives are at risk, that is flirting with war, and we shouldn’t stand for it. Don’t think that America is any less at risk then Syria, or Ukraine, we are all just frogs, waiting to boil.