The Age Of Cyber-Politik

By   Professor John Walker
Visiting Professor , Trent University (NTU) | Dec 19, 2018 01:30 pm PST

During the evolution of the Internet, we have encountered the darker side of the infrastructure’s wider potential. For example, the realization of the power a circuit board can harness as a low-cost Cyber Weapon, with which untold damage and chaos may be delivered to the unexpectant target. In fact we saw the evolution of the green shoots of Cyber War way back in 1993, and as a bet, I crafted the term Cyber Conflict to define the danger of this new electronic era, and as a side to prove just how easy it was to inject yet another buzz-word into the security-geek vocabulary – however, please forgive me for I digress!

Considering the evolved world of the day in 2018, we now see how computing resources interfaced with Social Media Platforms infiltrated with fake accounts and profiles used to interfere with, or even create a new world order of geopolitical acceptability – make no mistake here, for these are dangerous times. For example, it has been suggested that Russian actors used the power of social media to drive a subliminal message during the last US elections, and thus, it is inferred, may have subliminally manipulated the minds of the electorate with a style of, what may only be described as distance-based Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) to sway a consistent level of opinion, with the potential of embedding a mind chaging geopolitical posture – enter the age of Cyber-Politik in which a simple remote computer can be leveraged to interfere with, what are actually internal matters of the target domicile.

As a regular visitor to the UAE, and the core state of Saudi Arabia I am very familiar with what I have observed in yet another context to manifest in local politics (Politik), to exploit some of the regional internal challenges and tensions they face in areas of conflict – e.g.  The Yemen. However, here please do not confuse my comments and observations with the fact that I agree with all areas of this regions policies, I am just focusing on how computers may be used to manipulate and drive opinions for whatever purpose.

In the case of the UAE they often come in line for adverse commentary which relates to the jewel in the crown which rose out of the Arab Spring way back in 2010, which was sparked off in Tunisia – here, Tunisia often being tagged as the only state to have fully benefited from the uprising, and the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood – a topic which receives much attention in an attempt to drive unrest and despondency through the power of Cyber-Politik. However, in this case there are number of aspects relating to the Arab Spring rising in Tunisia which do to get tagged along with the Fake News, which enjoys such a dedicated following of tuned-in believers. For example, one of the main drivers behind the Tunisian uprising was a poor economy with a GDP standing at around $44 billion – a stagnated economy which is, with a modicum of +/- in the same place 8 years on, with corruption costing approximately $1 billion per year. Furthermore, because of the continued downturn in the economy driven by terrorist assaults, it has seen unemployment running at around 15.4% in 2018, as opposed to 13.05 in 2010 – an imposition which, with high probability has driven even more recruits into the ranks of Al Qaida and Daesh (the so called Islamic State), making them one of the main sources to look to for fresh bodies to fight the cause! A case of how Cyber Politik may be leveraged by any Human Resources department of say, any organized terrorist body, and supportive international state-sponsored power.

In fact, on another front, consider the situation in France where there has been speculation that, again Russia activists are working behind the scenes, logically interfacing with the Yellow Vests to drive yet another political agenda. However, here we now also see this stylization of branded anarchist attire entering the region of Tunisia, but here they will follow the Red Vest approach when they take to their streets – and I am guessing as and when they do, again some overseeing power will probably be waiting in the wings to take an active interest in their localized geopolitical struggle – Cyber Politik comes out to play once more!

The point here is, we are now seeing the humble computer, not only becoming a tool which may inflict hardship and pain, and which may compliment the kinetic theater of war both as a bystander and participating electronic ally – we are also seeing the emergence of systems, and the leverage of internet based platforms which may interfere with internal politics (Politik), to manipulate the minds of the vox populi with a very real objective of, at best an aspiration of changing a world order, or, at least tuning such an order in such a way which may enable the higher-power authority to ‘own-the-world’ – or at least to ensure that it is kept in-check to the expectation of those who have the most powerful keyboard!

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