Asymmetric Cyber-warfare, project summary

Project started in 2011. Funded by: Conseil de la recherche de l’USJ.

Head of project: Sabrine SAAD (FLSH – Relations internationales)

Project Summary:

Asymmetric Cyber-warfare between Israel and Hezbollah: the Web as a new strategic battlefield.

Cyber-warfare defines as “actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation’s computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption” (Clarke, 2010). Considered as the “fifth domain of warfare” (Lynn, 2010), Cyber-warfare presents a new geopolitical draw for the virtual continent of data and network structures represented by the Web today.

This research presents a study that focuses on a particular context of conflict where Cyber-warfare has been used intensely and very frequently. The conventional war launched between the Israeli state and the Lebanese Shiite Party of Hezbollah during summer of 2006 was the scene of one of the most important acts of a wider virtual conflict, the Arab-Israeli Cyber-war, a conflict that started with the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000. The so-called “July War” has continued since 2006, and is being transposed from a conventional warfare context to a “permanent and ongoing Cyber-war”, both in terms of online information control and manipulation as well as repeated attempts to take technical control of official or influential websites.

Our study takes place directly in the “mixed methods” logic of Web Science proposed by N. Shadbolt (2009). The Cyber-warfare is a technical reality that responds to military and political strategic imperatives. The study presents a detailed typology of the different kinds of attacks used by the two parties since the beginning of the conflict and a geopolitical analysis of their direct effect on the enemy’s strategy. The disciplinary basis of the study is also to demonstrate that future conflicts in the Arabic Near East will systematically be defined by the use and the exploitation of these new non-conventional and asymmetric methods, which purpose is to paralyze the military and civilian communication system of the enemy.

The proposed typology is based on three dimensions: 1) Cyber-attacks with strategic objectives that target Web information systems, communications and threaten civil security. 2) Cyber-attacks with technical objectives that target weapons control systems and military communication websites. 3) Cyber-attacks with a political objective, which aim to alter the power balance in international diplomatic relations. The Web is an effective weapon for these kinds of attacks, but also represents a relatively easy target, mainly through distributed denial of service (DDoS) strategies. The study focuses on how the different players react to this Cyber-warfare, in terms of organized technical response. If their motivations follow the official speech of the Israeli state or that of Hezbollah, their profile and skills vary from young computer hackers to professional military actors.

The originality of our study is based on an interdisciplinary approach, mixing Web technology and geopolitics. It combines an observation of Cyber-warfare strategic issues, with a purely technical approach of the particular use of the Web in cases of Cyber-attacks between Israel and Hezbollah. It launches a debate on the efficiency of Web security systems implemented in Cyber-defense strategies and raises the issue of digital data vulnerabilities in future military and political conflicts.

References :

[1]     Acosta D., (2007). The Makara of Hezbollah, Deception in the 2006 summer War. Naval Postgraduate School of Monterey, CA.

[2]     Arpagian, N. 2009. La Cyberguerre. La guerre numérique a commencé. Institut d’Etude et de Recherche pour la Securité des Entreprises. Vuibert.

[3]     Clarke, R.D. and Knake, R.K. 2010. Cyberwar. The Next Threat to National Security and What To Do about It. HarperCollins.

[4]     Coleman, K. 2008. Hezbollah’s Cyber Warfare Program. Internet Anthropologist Think Tank.

[5] Kalb Marvin, Saivetz, Carol. THE ISRAELI-HEZBOLLAH WAR OF 2006: The Media as a Weapon in Asymmetrical Conflict. Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government for presentation at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar on February 18, 2007

[6] Michael, A. 2010. Cyber Probing: The politicization of Virtual Attack. Israel chapter. Defense academy of the United Kingdom.

[7]     Osada,M. Baudot, M. and al.2007. Illustration of Information Warfare. The Conflict between Israel and Hezbollah of summer 2006. War Economic College.

[8]     Ventre, D. and al. 2010. Cyberguerre et guerre de l’information. Stratégies, règles, enjeux.  Lavoisier.


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