The Digital War is Now

World War D is raging. It’s been going for a while. But if you still aren’t convinced, read this from Der Spiegel over the weekend:

According to top secret documents from the archive of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden seen exclusively by SPIEGEL, they are planning for wars of the future in which the Internet will play a critical role, with the aim of being able to use the net to paralyze computer networks and, by doing so, potentially all the infrastructure they control, including power and water supplies, factories, airports or the flow of money.’

I’ve got no doubt that there’s a full blown world war raging right now. I’ve been saying that for longer than I can remember.

You all know it’s happening too. However, when I talk to people about it many still don’t believe it. Well, if there’s one key thing you learn this year let it be this…

Do not underestimate how at risk all your information is to those who want it. You must prepare yourself for an imminent global digital war.

The thing with this digital world war is there are no sides. It’s completely different to any war that’s ever been fought before.

And that’s because this world war is digital. It exists online, between networks, nation states, companies and people like you and me.

In this digital war there’s one massive power in play, which is really a collection of five nations with immense digital power.

Australia is one the five. And perhaps more surprisingly, so is New Zealand.

The Five Eyes Alliance (Five Eyes) is the possibly the world’s most powerful intelligence alliance. And it includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US.

Five Eyes origins date back to the Second World War. The US and the UK decided there was a need to collaborate on intelligence. This sharing of info would help push their wartime efforts forward. The agreement to share intel continues today — except today their focus is code breaking and intelligence in the digital world.

In 1948, Canada signed the agreement. And in 1956, Australia and New Zealand followed. The long title is the US/UK/CAN/AUS/NZ For Eyes Only. In other words, Five Eyes.

The world knew little of Five Eyes until 2010. Freedom of information de-classified documents and we got a look inside global intelligence.

The BBC highlighted this arrangement as ‘without parallel in the Western intelligence world.

‘UKUSA1’ by Public Record Office — Taken from UKUSA Agreement 1946.
Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Click to enlarge

Each Five Eyes nation has involved several of their national agencies.

Australia contributes the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) and the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO).

The US equivalent is the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Canada, the UK and NZ also have equivalent agencies.

Between these countries, you have perhaps the most wide-reaching intelligence operation known to man.

I highlight this because Five Eyes is watching. They’re watching all the time. And because Five Eyes exists, we have reason to believe the threat of global digital war is real. In fact, it’s probably already begun.

Building a digital arsenal of WMDDs

Part of the Five Eyes directive is simply to watch passively. But they’re also actively building a digital arsenal. They’re preparing for future wars. Digital wars.

We know this thanks to Edward Snowden. Over the weekend, Snowden released a new batch of intelligence documents. You can find the links to these documents on Der Spiegel website.

These documents go into detail about how Five Eyes operate in the digital world.

And the lengths they are prepared to go in this digital war are astonishing. However it’s not surprising. You see, the US are even willing to drop in on their allies. Well, anyone that’s not a member of Five Eyes that is.

The NSA calls this ‘fourth party collection’. And they love doing it. Quoting the released Snowden papers, Engadget explain that the NSA ‘steal their tools, tradecraft, targets and take’.

For example, lets say another friendly country develops a complex new piece of malware. The NSA might be eavesdropping on that particular nation. They hear about this malware and manage to get a hold of it. The hard work is already done for them. It’s built already. Now all they need to do is tweak it, maybe improve it, and then use it against their enemies.

It’s like collaboration without permission.

The objective of this is to benefit from the digital development of other nations, and then to use it against them. This is all in preparation for future digital wars.

The cyber attack ability of Five Eyes is worrying. And an arsenal of digital weapons is a game changer. The power to jam computer networks, freeze power supplies or disrupt air traffic is decisive. It begs the question — when will they deploy these weapons?

Perhaps in retaliation to the Sony hack? Maybe North Korea will be in the firing line? Who knows? But it will happen. It’s just a matter of when.

You could say Five Eyes is building a treasure chest of WMDDs…Weapons of Mass Digital Destruction. They’re ready to use them however they see fit, and there’s little you or I can do to stop them.

The great digital war of the 21st century

I’m only speculating here, but it’s a short leap to think China and Russia have a similar intelligence agreement in place.

And with global tensions at an all time high, there’s only one outcome — all out digital war.

You only need to look at the upcoming ‘cyber war games’ the UK and US are simulating. The BBC calls the games ‘unprecedented’. I call it a show of strength.

War games aren’t anything new. Most navies and armies engage in war games to stay ‘battle ready’. We should now get used the cyber war games too. Cyber armies also need to stay battle ready.

The cyber games will happen later this year. The mock attack will be on the financial sector. This will follow with more exercises to, ‘test critical national infrastructure’ according to Downing Street.

The existence of Five Eyes in the digital world is something we should worry about. The reach of this alliance is deeper than most of us would like to admit.

There’s a real threat that cyber attacks will take down national critical infrastructure. And Five Eyes wants to be ready for it. Or perhaps they’re planning an offensive.

All this just proves digital war is a clear and present danger. Perhaps this is the beginning of the Great Digital War of the 21st Century.


Sam Volkering,
Technology Analyst, Revolutionary Tech Investor

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