SCIENCE TRIBUNE Thursday, July 25, 2002, Chandigarh, India

Preparing for information war
Harpreet Jatana
The term information warfare is relatively new, but the role that information and information technologies have played in warfare has been crucial almost since the beginning of recorded history.

  • Logic torpedoes
  • Credibility
  • Psyops now alive
  • Outwitting the enemy
  • Strong encryption
  • Networks in the crossfire

Multi-functional Communicator
At present, just a concept study, Ericsson is using this device as a prototype for the continuing development of new applications. Look for a commercially available example from Ericsson in the next 12 to 18 months.
  • Jacket for heart
  • Concept PC
  • Gene clue to AIDS



Preparing for information war
Harpreet Jatana

The term information warfare is relatively new, but the role that information and information technologies have played in warfare has been crucial almost since the beginning of recorded history.

Nearly 2000 years ago, the Romans, striving to secure their borders and mobilise troops quickly, developed some yet undeciphered precursor of Morse Code to send messages via flashing mirrors the entire length of the Roman Empire in a single day. More recently, the US government took over the entire telephony system during World war I, based upon military and information security considerations. Even in those times, the notion had arisen that in an age of total war the public networks would be totally involved.

Where the present differs from the past is in the way that information technologies, including the public networks, have become tools of war instead of merely supporting conventional military operations.

Logic torpedoes

Consider the following nightmarish scenario where modern information warfare is carried to its logical extremes using available technology. A large yacht lies at anchor somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Powered by five enormous wing sails that double as solar panels, it can stay at sea for months without refueling, and in fact it has done so, sailing in a random pattern, and transmitting over a VSAT satellite link.

The vessel is a warship, every bit as destructive as an aircraft carrier or a missile cruiser, but it carries not a single conventional weapon. Instead its arsenal consists, for the most part, of logic torpedos, especially dangerous variants of the hackerfamiliar logic bomb. It consists of a payload of malicious code and a delivery system made up of an intelligent agent that directs the payload to a specific target and places it deep in the operating system where it awaits activation by either a transmitted command or the host’s own clock.

The yacht has a small crew to operate it, but most of its occupants are cyber criminals, elite hackers carefully recruited by the vessel’s owner. As the sun comes up on a breathless tropical morning, they watch a row of flat screen video monitors carrying satellite broadcasts from all over the world.

The first logic torpedoes begin to detonate before the sun is over the horizon. Major electrical utilities throughout the target country experience blackouts and water and gas distribution systems are disrupted as well.

Medical electronic equipment begins to malfunction at major hospitals and panic ensues. Financial records are erased or altered on an enormous scale, precipitating early closure of the financial markets and plummeting stock prices. Government computers are massively attacked and payroll records for thousands of government employees are altered. Public transit systems are brought to a halt in many large cities and air traffic control systems are ravaged.

Then, when as many vital services are possible have been incapacitated, a fresh wave of torpedoes is launched against the networks themselves. Switches and routers are broached and compromised. Network peering points are pummelled. Routing tables are rewritten and are domain names. Directed energy viruses are transmitted to millions of cell phones that transmit them, in turn, to millions more.

Finally as the coup de grace, a furious assault begins against the nation’s largest data recovery centers whose working have preoccupied the sea-borne hackers for the past several weeks.

Through it all, the television networks continue to function, telling of untold confusion and fear. Then they too go down just as the nation’s leader launches into a sound byte meant to reassure the electorate. The hackers erupt in cheers, and innumerable champagne bottles are brought out of the ship’s galley.

Security analysts have been speculating on the possibility and the likelihood of such an attack for years, especially since the purported attempt by Saddam Hussein to hire a hacker terror squad during the Gulf war.


The occurrence of the unthinkable on September 11 has predictably given such speculations a special relevance and has diminished the credibility of those analysts - and they were probably the majority as recently as a year ago -who would dismiss such a scenario as sheer fantasy.

US carriers are clearly preoccupied by security issues, and the danger of catastrophic attacks to a degree never seen previously.

"Yes, a cyberterrorist attack is possible, most likely over the Internet rather than the switched networks," says Venu Venugopal, group manager for security for Sprint. "there’s a lot more interest in network security now."

"I can’t tell you exactly what we’re doing." Said David Rabe, a spokesman for Verizon, " But of course, we’re concerned. We’ve been reviewing our security policies thoroughly since the attacks."

Psyops now alive

Information warfare in its broadest sense goes far beyond electronic communications. The modern information warrior approaches information in a limited number of ways. He gathers information about the enemy and uses that information to enhance his decision- making process and to control automated weapon systems. In addition, he disseminates information to confuse or disable the enemy’s own information systems such as radar or satellite surveillance, and to sap enemy morale, a subspecies of infowar known as psyops (for psychological operations).

The information warrior relies on many techniques and technologies to collect information. Old-fashioned human intelligence provided by agents on the ground and even gleaned from open sources such as newspapers and broadcasts is still in many cases the best. But human intelligence has been increasingly supplemented by information collected electronically.

These means include physical methods, such as satellite optical surveillance, on which the US, for one, is heavily reliant; radar, the mainstay of military operations in the field because of the ease with which it can be combined with advanced weapons control systems; infrared sensors, especially useful for detecting concealed troops in the field; satellite interception of microwave over the horizon spill, useful for picking up cellular backhaul , but less useful for landline telephony; stray field emanations from computing equipment, the venerable phone tap.

In modern information warfare the public networks are considered just another battlefield to be monitored as assiduously as troop movements on the ground - only in this case, it means scanning traffic at routers and switches as well as along copper and fiber optic cables.

Outwitting the enemy

Coincidentally, the network operator is apt to become an intrusive presence in the life of the ordinary user, for a government conducting surveillance likely will cast a very wide net.

A good example of this is Carnivore, a search engine installed at the router level within an ISP by the FBI. While the FBI has never revealed the details of how carnivore operates, it pursues an undifferentiated stream of network traffic to sniff the packets associated with suspects.

Behind these basic physical surveillance mechanism lie the beginning of a brain. This brain consists of computing engines loaded with applications for digesting and analyzing raw data.

Examples abound. Satellite cameras feed information to image enhancement and pattern analysis software for resolving images. Radar receivers have their own specific intelligence for rejecting spurious signals. Taps on public networks use sophisticated search engines to isolate text transmissions containing keywords and speech recognition algorithms to detect such words in continuous speech. Supposedly, US intelligence agencies also possess speech recognition software for identifying individual speakers. Finally, data mining techniques are used to identify suspicious patterns of network use.

Strong encryption

Nonetheless, online users can stymie government surveillance of their transmissions by encrypting their messages. By all accounts, commercially available strong encryption products on the market are close to uncrackable and can only be attacked successfully by massively parallel computer systems running continuously for weeks or months. Any terrorist organisation resorting to strong encryption on a regular basis could simply overwhelm the resources of the federal government.

The Bush administration recently floated the notion of outlawing strong encryption worldwide. But how would you enforce it ?

It goes almost without saying that the outlawing of strong encryption would hinder the ability of service providers to offer VPN services or to protect intellectual contact entrusted to them. It would definitely impact the business. It could also hamstring enterprises seeking to protect themselves by means of authentication.

Networks in the crossfire

Public networks in the age of infowar find themselves in the unenviable position of simultaneously having to protect themselves as potential targets and to attempt to meet government demands for assistance in monitoring security threats while avoiding liability claims by individuals and corporations alleging violations of privacy.

Networks, both public and private, have developed in a way that is antithetical to security. You have a lot of open source code and open architectures which are good for developers but also good for those seeking to attack the networks.

Whenever one network is connected to another, which is the essence of a public network, it is vulnerable.

As a security administrator, you have to look at everything. Your attacker, on the other hand, has to exploit only one vulnerability to bring your system down. It’s not a topic which breeds optimism. One looks back almost with nostalgia to the days of the electromechanical switch which no one ever hacked and seems today to symbolise a sense of confidence in public institutions that cannot be recovered.

The author is member (VLSI) with Semiconductor Complex, Chandigarh.



Multi-functional Communicator

At present, just a concept study, Ericsson is using this device as a prototype for the continuing development of new applications. Look for a commercially available example from Ericsson in the next 12 to 18 months.

Mobile telecommunications giant Ericsson unveiled the world’s first true multi-functional communicator platform at this year’s CeBIT 2000 Show in Hannover, Germany. Coined as a first-generation integrated mobile information device, it combines Internet browsing, messaging, imaging, mobile telephony, personal information management, and location-based applications and services.

The Communicator is configured to handle the latest mobile communications protocols, HSCSD (High Speed Circuit Switched Data) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Services), along with triple-band GSM (900/1800/1900 MHz) - which makes the device worldwide capable. Internet access is via either a WAP or HTML browser.

Equipped with both built-in Bluetooth and GPS chips, the device employs Bluetooth technology to connect wirelessly to a myriad of similarly configured appliances (like other phones, your PC, or the store you are standing in), while the GPS interface allows the unit to provide and receive information based upon geo-coordinates — to comply with regulations so that an emergency crew can find you.

An intuitive colour touch screen allows for easy navigation, pen-input and handwriting recognition.

Jacket for heart

When it comes to matters of the heart, big is usually better. But big and floppy is another story.

After a heart attack or other assault that weakens the heart’s muscles, the organ begins to enlarge. The stress can kill so many cells that the heart begins to look like a "big floppy bag," says Dr. Hani Sabbah, the inventor of a mesh-like jacket that protects against the stretching that leads to heart failure. It’s currently in clinical trials.

Concept PC

If it were merely an all-in-one desktop, Hewlett-Packard’s Concept PC 2001 would be impressive enough: Inside its 18-inch LCD is a 48GB hard drive, Pentium 4 processor, CD-RW drive, Bluetooth module, Webcam, and speakers.

But it has many more tricks up its screen. You can pluck the monitor from its stand and unfold it into a traditional laptop — or turn its display away from you for presentations.

Finally, it also transforms into a tablet PC, complete with a touch-screen. Though Hewlett-Packard has no plans to produce the concept; the company will integrate some of its features into future products.

Gene clue to AIDS

People infected with HIV who have key variations in two genes take longer to develop full-blown AIDS, according to a study published on-line by the specialist journal Nature Genetics.

One of the genes, called KIR, controls a receptor on "natural killer" lymphocytes, a lethal footsoldier in the immune system that is one of the body’s first lines of defence against intruders.

The other, HLA-B, encodes a protein for human leucocyte antigen (HLA) located on the surface of white blood cells and other tissues, the study published on July 21 said.

Examining blood samples taken from more than 900 people with the human immuno deficiency virus, scientists led by Mary Carrington of the National Cancer Institute in Maryland found that neither gene, by itself, had any impact on the progression to AIDS.

But volunteers who had specific variations in both genes were able to delay the onset of AIDS, they found. AFP






1. Common name of a salt of Magnesium.

9. Branch of medical science dealing with diseases of children.

11. Process of flow of solvent into a solution through semi-permeable membrane.

12. Commonly used type of Iron.

13. Symbol for Cadmium.

14. A common heart ailment (abbr.)

15. A tropical plant, used as a vegetable.

16. An authority in UK responsible for enforcement of health and safety regulations (abbr.)

18. …….ward side of a truss experiences lesser air pressure.

19. Common name for a coloured substance like Alizarin.

23. A small country of North America.

24. This pressure on a surface is due to a fluid at rest.

27. A part of the large intestine.

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29. Glass apparatus used to keep the solids moisture free.


1. Poly-ether used as adhesive and for protective coatings.

2. Computer language used for education.

3. These elements, 7 in number, occur in Group III to VI of periodic table.

4. ….nil, a popular product to eliminate odour.

5. … …metal, an alloy of lanthanides and used in trace bullets.

6. Abbr. for an electronic machine used by news agencies for printing.

7. The scale to measure the intensity of earthquake.

8. A substance that release hydrogen ions when added to water.

10. A deadly disease in which defence mechanism of body is damaged.

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20. Microscopic organism used in fermentation.

21. Crystalline, soluble and sweet carbohydrates.

22. An element of group 12 used for galvanising.

25. The front of a hoof.

26. Abbr. for a popular English daily of India.

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