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As Nigerian Army Launches Cyber Warfare Command

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The Nigerian Army recently launched a cyber warfare command aimed at combating online redicalisation.TARKAA DAVID takes a critical look at the implications for media outlets.

Following the myriads of propaganda and fake news that trailed the fight against insurgency and other political happenings, the Nigerian Army launched cyber warfare command to protect data space and prevent cyber terrorism.

Cyber warfare unlike conventional warfare refers to the use of digital technology to attack the enemy. It is war prosecuted by hackers using supercomputers on the dark web. This war is mostly sponsored by states.

The chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, while commissioning the command stated that Cyber-warfare is the fifth domain of warfare after land, sea, air and space, describing the warfare as the most dangerous form of warfare.

Cyber warfare gained relevance in 2007 when it was alleged that Russian hackers attacked Eastern European State of Estonia when it announced plans to move a soviet war memorial. The attack left banks and other government services offline.

Cyber warfare in its strict form is targeted primarily at military infrastructures to steal valuable information or even physically damage the facilities.

The COAS said due to the nature of cyber warfare, the Nigerian Army saw the need to embark on data protection and Information Warfare to curb online radicalisation as well as other terrorist activities perpetrated on the Internet.

“The intrinsic features of cyberspace can be easily exploited for information warfare by actors with malicious intent to plant and disseminate fake news and instruct paid users to spread online manipulated content,” he said.

However analysts are of the opinion that information warfare does not connote Cyber warfare. Information warfare on the other hand is the use of disinformation and propaganda in order to influence others – like the citizens of another state.

This disinformation might use documents stolen by hackers and published – either complete or modified by the attackers to suit their purpose.

Though several attempts have been made by the federal government to curtail the spread of fake news but the menace seems to persist.

To address this scourge, Lt Gen Buratai charged the command to collaborate with other agencies in the protection of the Nigerian Cyber Space. “Focus your attention on protection of Nigerian Army data space, critical facilities and the prevention of Cyber Terrorism,” he said

We can only hope that fighting cyber terrorism will not lead to gagging of the social media which is open to the general public and has the force to push for reforms hitherto not possible due to the regulated nature of the traditional media.

Many causes neglected by the traditional media are brought to the fore using social media, which is beyond the control of government or constituted authorities.

Speaking further, the COAS noted that hostile actors in cyberspace are leveraging on the variety of tools allowed by computer network operations and computational propaganda to influence public opinion.

This is in realisation of the influence of social media.

Such actions, he said, demonstrates the real threat of information warfare and the need to combat it with use of information knowledge.

The Nigerian Army has earned a reputation for hoarding information from the public due to security reasons or national security.

He stated that the motive by cyber terrorists is to degrade debates with diverging truths, deceive, distract and misinform public opinion, adding that such can eventually disorient and corroborate a sense of doubt among the public, or shape the opinion of a specific target audience on a certain issue.

“In view of the aforementioned, and in line with my vision for the Nigerian Army which is to have professional responsive, Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional roles, the NA decided to establish the Nigerian Army Cyber Warfare Command to empower the NA with the capabilities to protect our data/network against cyber attacks and hostile elements.

“The Cyber Operations Centre would also enable robust online presence so as to fight fake news targeted at the Army with counter narratives and cyber operations. Therefore, you must equip yourselves with digital forensics capabilities and be able to handle cases of identity theft and generate immediate incidence response,” he said.

For the purpose of information dissemination, it is instrumental to remind the authorities that not all attacks constitute cyber war.

For an attack to be considered an act of cyber warfare, it depends on a number of factors. These can include the identity of the attacker, what they are doing, how they do it and how much damage they inflict. Like other forms of war, cyber warfare is usually defined as a conflict between states, not individuals.

However cyber war, according to scholars, is best understood as conflict between nations that excludes a lot of attacks, which are sometimes described as cyber warfare.

“Attacks by individual hackers, or even groups of hackers, would not usually be considered to be cyber warfare, unless they were being aided and directed by a state (states providing support to hackers) in order to create plausible deniability for their own actions”, going by this, dealing with online radicalism has to be done within the ambits of the law to allow media houses inform the general public of the happenings in the society and keeping them abreast. Journalism, they say, is not only about reporting what the authorities want, it entails reporting what the authorities don’t want reported but the public desires to know.

The military had earlier announced plans to monitor Nigerians on social media, the announcement was greeted with great criticism calling for a stop however, the military refused to renege on its decision. This, according to some observers, is an attempt to suppress the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution.

The COAS further tasked the command to routinely survey the dark web/darknet and carry out analysis that may help the NA to be proactive in the cyber realm.

He recounted that in recent times, the military has been inundated with several complaints regarding claims of unprofessional conducts of some of its personnel in the field.

“Consequently, the Army has taken it upon itself to create an avenue for the public to submit complains and information directly to the appropriate authority without third party interference,” he said

He explained that the said avenue is an application that would allow users to relay information anonymously to the Nigerian Army. “It would enable citizens to give timely information to the Army thereby facilitating quick response.”

He reiterated that crimes of misconduct perpetrated by serving personnel can be directly reported to the Army while keeping the person involved abreast with actions taken as regards a submitted complain.

He averred that the link to the application would be publicly available on the Nigerian Army Facebook page.

He noted that the application can also be assessed through the NA website and on apps freely available on various app stores. “Users can submit a report as well as attach uploads that would aid the authority in carrying out necessary actions. Although, submitting images or videos is not compulsory, it would however aid the NA in authenticating submitted reports.”

He said the features are aimed at bolstering interactions with the citizens of Nigeria while making the activities of the Army readily available to them.

Speaking earlier, the commander, Nigerian Army Warfare Command, Brig Gen Thomas O Unokhua said the command would use the available resources to achieve the vision behind its establishment.

He commended the COAS for ensuring the establishment of the command stating it’s the first of its kind in Africa.

QUOTE:

We can only hope that fighting cyber terrorism will not lead to gagging of the social media which is open to the general public and has the force to push for reforms hitherto not possible due to the regulated nature of the traditional media.



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