ABU DHABI, 7th June, 2018 (WAM) -- The basic nature of warfare has not changed over time, but the character of conflict has kept evolving, was a fundamental concept discussed during a panel discussion as part of the Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed series.
Titled, 'The Changing Character of Warfare', the event was attended by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Emirates Red Crescent, ERC.
Grigol Mgaloblishvili, former Georgian Prime Minister and professor at the National Defence College, and cyber-security expert Dr. Mohamed Al-Kuwaiti led the panel discussion where they explained that the changing character of modern-day conflict needs to be adequately understood before it can be countered effectively. Sheikhs, dignitaries and several members of the Armed Forces also attended the panel discussion.
The emergence of hybrid warfare as a new form of conflict has fundamentally altered the security landscape, posing serious threats to security institutions. Hybrid conflicts focus on non-military means to subvert and destroy states without resorting to open warfare, at least at first. Thanks to rapid advances in technology, information warfare, cyber-attacks and cyber-terrorism now rank among the most harmful instruments of manipulation in hybrid warfare.
Mgaloblishvili kicked off the panel discussion by providing an international perspective on the changing nature of modern warfare and the challenges it poses to national security. Dr Al-Kuwaiti then offered a local context by focusing on the increasing threats posed by cyber-crime, cyber-terrorism and cyber-warfare in the UAE.
The blurring of lines between the different modes of warfare and weaponisation of non-military means to undermine the foundation of the state is one of the most significant security challenges today, the Majlis heard. Neither the concept nor the essence of hybrid warfare is altogether new, but it manages to lay bare the weaknesses of the state and security institutions in countering those threats, which do not quite fit neat Western categories of war.
Mgaloblishvili explained, "Even today, people are fighting for the same fundamental reasons that the Greek historian Thucydides identified nearly 2,500 years ago - 'fear, honour and interest'. However, the character of conflict keeps changing, and most modern-day conflicts, unfolding from Europe to the Middle East and South-East Asia, display characteristics common to the new warfare model."
He went on to say that in contemporary conflicts, war starts well before the first bullet is fired, and often, no overt military force is required to defeat an adversary. "Increasingly, non-military means are playing an essential role in achieving the strategic objective of hybrid warfare, which is to cripple a state through cyber-terrorism as well as political and economic subversion before it even realises conflict is underway," added Mgaloblishvili.
"With cyberspace becoming the next battlefield, cyber-security is key to defending a country’s interests and its critical digital infrastructure," Dr. Al-Kuwaiti said, adding that governments are increasingly moving towards smart cities and services, better awareness of cyber-security, information security and the engagement of human resources are central to maintaining and enhancing overall social and economic security.
"Ensuring the safety of a country’s digital infrastructure is a matter of national security and citizens need to be trained on how to safeguard it better," he continued. "Adults and children alike use electronic gadgets extensively nowadays, and it is essential to increase their awareness about cyber crimes. The easy access children have to all things digital exposes them to the risk of being cyber-bullied and blackmailed. There is also the danger of criminals and extremists trying to reach out ‘virtually’ to innocent citizens, seeking to radicalise them, hack into their electronic devices, spread viruses and engage in fraud and blackmail."
Dr. Al-Kuwaiti added it was essential to develop cyber-security standards for technologies such as the Internet of Things, cloud computing and artificial intelligence. He also outlined some of the industry’s global challenges, including the evolving techniques used in data theft, psychological operations, piracy and cyber attacks.
Cyber-security plays a critical role in ensuring the safety of a nation’s population in our increasingly digitalised world, and Dr Al-Kuwaiti said the UAE had been one of the leaders in creating stringent laws cracking down on cyber threats. The cyber expert called on countries to share information and collaborate in adopting a proactive approach in addressing emerging risks and strengthening cyber-security awareness.