Weapons of Future?

Einstein had once remarked that "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

I had often wondered about the nature of a third world war. Gedanken experiments, given the constraints of world politics, is an interesting activity. Over the years it has been becoming increasingly clear, that conventional warfare, such that we have known so far, has a good chance of becoming obsolete. The nuclear proliferation and illegal nuclear dealings, have made it increasingly difficult to bully economically younger nations. After the fiasco of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it has also become evident that, no nation can afford to take nuclear threats lightly.
Given the recent spat of nuclear armaments, it'll remain a complicated matter to pull in a bunch of nations to fight each other, without invoking nuclear threats. Also, I would expect, the collective wisdom will prevent such a situation from developing. Thus we can safely assume, discounting absolute lunacy, that soon the world will experience a rather uncomfortable stalemate.
But, it doesn't imply that humanity has reached a perfect Nash equilibrium. Over the past decade, in quite a benign form, another form of warfare has been coming of age, slowly maturing into deadlier form. Its innocuous demeanor has attracted little attention from policy makers, but it holds considerable promise of being the prominent weapon of the next big war, if not a World War.

Sophistication invites loopholes. They are intimately married. With each sunrise, technological progress is driving mankind towards a more comfortable, but increasingly dependent life. In the West, Canada for example, the overwhelming dependence on electricity has worried me since the day I set foot here. Though I must concede to the fact that this submission has made life extremely comfortable by world standards, it poses a dangerous threat. Likewise, at a more global scale, there has been a escalating growth of computerization. It is a term that loosely implies some kind of automation and (not necessarily) efficiency achieved through the usage of computers as nodes in a network. One major example is the internet. It is a fact that internet has seeped much deeper into the daily life of every man than we will find comfortable to accept. It is entwined in a range of direct and indirect ways with every step, most of us take. Therefore, it is apt to invest significant thoughts and resources to analyze its (intended) impact and how it can be exploited.

The impact is relatively easy to find out. The exploitation is what escapes the eye. Over the last five years there has been an increasingly high number of incidents where bugs in the security of networks has been exploited and unsuspecting users and benefactors have been presented with rather malicious codes. They are popularly known as viruses or, worms. While most of them do not have catastrophic effects, some do. But, this is not what I'm most worried about.
There has been a rather different kind of exploitation that has been regularly practiced, but has often passed public eye, because these are more organized attempts and they are not concerned with 'infecting' personal computers. One such incident occurred when a retaliation was in order, after an US spy plane allegedly shot down a Chinese aircraft, killing its pilot. Apparently certain group of hackers, based in PRC, attacked US government websites, squeezing in misleading information and impregnating outgoing emails with viruses. Reports such as these are plenty, but confirmations are rare. There has also been menacing incidents where servers of the Pentagon has been loaded with terabytes of junk, just to slow them down or, to outright crash them. There has been arrests made when these same servers, on another occasion, was used to store pirated movies and softwares that ran into terabytes.

The concern here is not these pranks or, mudslingings. There is a graver issue at hand, when political discords had been avenged by ruthless cyber attacks on both civilian as well as military network infrastructures. Incidents such has these have become more numerous in the last five years and they are growing both in number and impact. Serious concerns exist over the security of networks that has been spared thus far, but there are known issues of a large number of foreign bots existing in servers native to the concerned networks. These bots are not viruses or, malicious codes per se, but they might have been coded to take up arms against the networks they are gestating in, when triggered by their masters. Such a scenario is not remote, least of all being science fiction.
Its not difficult to imagine a situation when such bots, coupled with active attacks can throw a whole nation in disarray, including its satellites and dangerous weapons. Virtually, it is possible to make two unsuspecting nations go to war, for no fault of their own. It is possible to exterminate a nation from within, with its own devices of development and defense. And, it is possible to assimilate a powerful offensive even without stockpiling thousands of nuclear warheads.

There is an urgent need to enfold network security into the cusps of national and territorial security. Though its a vastly different world and it is difficult to man these 'virtual' territories, there is always an option of developing a powerful defense mechanism: harboring and fostering homegrown hackers.
In the present context its imperative that the monopoly of the Spartan value of individuals to national defense is over. This is an age where couch-loving, rodent like, unhealthy coders are as important to national defense as are the herculean gentlemen in the battlefield. We as a people should get over the age old notion of Defense that comprises of nuclear warheads, missiles, battleships, guns and diplomacy and start to envision Defense as a two pronged fork comprised of the traditional, rather 'real' part and a 'virtual' cyber part. The Defense of a modern nation is complete only when it has gained equal efficiency and potency in both these components.


  1. A fire sale is not gonna happen... Protecting against such stuff is fairly simple.

    Keep weapon systems and sensitive data and info channels physically unlinked from the internet. Encrypt stuff. And secure your trivial servers or script kiddies from around the world will own them. Done.

    World war 3 will not be fought or initiated over tcp/ip. It will be fought using robots though...

  2. some news :