Preventing cyber attacks
The warning by Army
Commander Lt Gen Jagath Jayasuriya of the possibility of Sri
Lanka being the target for a cyber attack in the near future
should be taken with the seriousness it deserves. The
consequences of such an eventuality would be even more
devastating than a direct war.
For, what we will be confronted with will be is a hidden
enemy not with state-of-the-art weapons but who uses insidious
and surreptitious means to cause damage and destruction. We see
such a phenomenon unravelling in the unrest and uprisings now
sweeping the Middle East where once strong nations who stood
against the might of the West are today falling apart.
It is significant that cyber technology such as social
networkings was the catalyst that brought the masses on to the
streets in Tunisia and Egypt. There is all likelihood of the
cyber being exploited and used extensively by those bent on
undermining states to realize their sinister agendas, emboldened
by what is happening in the Middle East.
Delivering the keynote address on Strategic Dimension of
Cyber Warfare in Colombo Lt Gen Jayasuriya said that although
there is no room to wage war to physically devastate the nation
there is yet ample room to launch a cyber war through cyber
space against Sri Lanka that could be as destructive.
Movie buffs who are familiar with the James Bond genre would
equally be familiar with their storyline where the villain
always uses some ingenious method to harm a nation through a
secret weapon or technological devise. There were the instances
where such villains who are usually portrayed as megalomaniacs
conceiving a weapon or devise to sabotage some space program of
the British Government or destroy some Western target. Such
deeds are carried out with a degree of sophistication throwing
off the scent from the real villain. It was left to James Bond
to trace and destroy the villain and his organisation.
We are of course talking about fiction and of an era where
these evil designs were conceived only in the mind with no real
threat of this actually happening. But it is no longer fiction
today in this day and age and in today's context where ingenious
technology is within the grasp of all and sundry to wreak more
havoc and destruction than devised by a fictitious Blofield or a
Scaramanga of the Bond movies. What is more, this technology can
be used by hostile nations to harm and undermine others and at
the same time leaving no trace of their evil doings.
We have already seen the damage caused by Internet hackers
and the unravelling of State secrets of the US Government
through deft cyber manipulation by a whiz kid which embarrassed
and undermined the integrity of Uncle Sam.
Significantly Lt Gen Jayasuriya also pointed to the
vulnerability of our banks and other important State
institutions to cyber attacks. He said "irreparable damage could
be caused to a nation if the servers that includes financial
information of institutions such as banks which are connected to
cyber space are attacked. Not just financial institutions, cyber
attacks could also be used to undermine the economy of the
country using the information garnered".
Therefore, like the Army Chief said there needs to be a
combined effort to combat any cyber threat on vulnerable targets
with the participation of service providers, the banking,
manufacturing sector and the Armed Forces. As is well-known Sri
Lanka did not make many friends following the single-minded
purpose of President Rajapaksa to end the war through military
means. There are many Western nations who felt slighted by the
snub of the Lankan Head of State, who must be waiting to get
even with Sri Lanka and who could deploy many surreptitious
means yet to undermine its sovereignty.
These may take many forms with the cyber too being a major
tool. Therefore like the Army Chief said there is need for
guarding against such attacks by taking our own counter
The Government should appoint a high-powered committee
comprising technocrats and entrust them with the task of
combatting the latest threat. We can even obtain help from
friendly countries to assist us in this quest.
Enemies of Sri Lanka are bound to use insidious ways to harm
it now that the country is gradually reaching stability which
would not be to the liking of some. As already mentioned the
unravelling scenes in the Middle East is a pointer to what could
be expected. Here too it is no secret that cyber technology was
used extensively with many behind the scene operators.