30 October 2011, 16:46

Digital Diplomacy against hostile regimes

Digital Diplomacy against hostile regimes
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Interview with Gennady Yevstafyev, retired Lieutenant-General of Russian Intelligence Service.

This week Cyber Czar of the United States Mr. Cross, he is coming to discuss the problems, he is coming not at the very official style, because in Russia there are words that Cybersecurity is threatened and Digital Diplomacy of the United States is a new method of neocolonialism and instrument of destabilization of hostile regimes and so on. These are exactly the words which are used in Russia.

But Mr. Yevsafyev do you think we could actually explain in full details to our listeners the essence of Cyber Diplomacy or Digital Diplomacy, however you call it.

We have, first of all, to note that the cyber problem is very closely connected with Internet and the Internet was established in 1998, because at that time there was a decision to start The Internet Corporation for very innocent things, for assigned names and numbers, abbreviation is ICANN. It is based on the multi-stakeholder model, but whatever you say the whole thing belongs to the United States. They were very much ahead of technological development in cyberspace and they still dominate the Internet situation. Usually the problems are discussed in the so called Internet Government’s Forums, abbreviation is IGF, but with the course of time it came out that it is a very multi-dimensional problem and Cyberspace Security is multi-sided because Cyberspace Security is, first of all, the security of day-to-day life of the international community, because invention of Internet and its establishment is a tremendous breakthrough in the usual man’s life, you everything through the Internet, now. And it is very helpful in many ways in economic and social and all this kind of things. But with the course of time it came out that Internet is not that innocent, it could be used against the so called hostile regimes. We have seen this number of times.

But could you give us an example?

For example, only this year, which was very rich with all kinds of global cyber space manifestations, you all remember that there was a story of a so called Stuxnet Cyber Worm, which was introduced and penetrated the Iranian Nuclear Organization and to a logic stand has really destroyed, not physically, but, you know, it is a virtual thing, it destroyed the operation of many elements of Iranian Nuclear Industry.

But I’ve heard some analysts say that digital information technologies have also been used in the Balkans crisis, but is that truly so?

It has been also established, you remember when there was Balkan crisis, and Balkan crisis was closely connected with the activity of all kind of extreme Islamist movements and everybody was happy that in the long run the population in Kosovo and some other areas, dominated by Islamic religion, was introduced into the modern age through Internet, but then Special Services found out that numerous Internet cafes, which were established by hundreds of mosques around the Balkan-Muslim areas were, in fact, the centers through which the mobilization of extremist terrorist activity was arranged and after thorough inner investigations in the beginning of this century it was variably established that many of the would be conspirators and terrorist exchange the ideas through Internet and arrange their meetings and operations using the Internet facilities. So, it is not that simple, but nowadays we are very much in discussion of, for example, cyberspace attacks on hostile regimes.

Hostile regimes, so are we talking about direct Government involvement and new Foreign Policy too?

I’m quite sure that with certain extent, though the Americans deny this, but their General the Head of African Command said he was not rejected for any kind of weapons he asked for. African Command was responsible for handling of Libya’s situation. Though Americans are trying to say that they were not using the cyberspace for attacking, for example, Libyan enter Aircrafts System, but funny enough the system, which was not a sophisticated system, but nevertheless, it stopped to operate.

You know, it is interesting, because I’ve been listening to Mr. Cross’s lecture on the new opportunities, presented by the use of digital technologies and answering a question he reminded us of Robert Gates words that Cyberspace has become a new theatre of warfare, but then he also said that he didn’t believe in Twitter Revolution and of course he never spoke of cyber warfare, you know.

The problem is becoming more and more serious. Sometime ago, before the whole Arab Spring started the United States have distributed one 100 000 computers free for local population in Arab countries. Of course, not all 100 000 computers that were distributed free found their way into the hands of opposition elements, but as it stands now major part of it was used to arrange the events of Arab Spring in different Arab countries: Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and so on. That made some people extremely worried, it was distributed free and the whole development, as it stands now, comes to a simple fact that Americans have admitted that Cyberspace is a very important instrument for their Foreign Policy and they are using it to impose the views on population and even some regimes in the outside world. Hillary Clinton is supposed to be godmother of creation of the new instrument of American Foreign Policy and we have a fact of creation special new department in the State Department of the United States, in the most important embassies they have special units, which are handling the cyber space.

But using for what? Can we specify the ultimate purpose of the operation?

There are different purposes: to prevent it's being used by terrorists but, on the other hand, they are using it to achieve their goals, so, in fact, we have a huge growing problem as it stands now. For example, the Pentagon, as stated, is attacked very often by hackers. This is another phenomena of the whole problem, and not only the private people are attacking but some foreign countries allegedly attack American net services of the Armed Forces and Navy and so on. And they stated that attack on their vital facilities is tent amount to declaring a war and in certain cases they allow themselves in reply, if they established and identified the source of attack and if it is state motivated attack, to claim that they can use nuclear weapons to punish the perpetrators.

But in that case there could always be a good justification for starting a war just considering the number of hacker attacks?

Of course, our people for example in Russia claim that there are about ten thousand cases of hacker attacks on government facilities in our country. The biggest problem of all is to identify the source of attack. For example, in the Stuxnet nobody was firmly sure that it was American or Israeli attack. Everybody is saying aloud about this but to prove is extremely difficult especially when we deal with countries of sophisticated nature and sophisticated achievements in this area.

But something needs to be done then. Is anything being done?

There is already growing effort in the world to try to find the way to cope with these problems and, for example, China, Russia and some other countries propose an international code of conduct for information security, their idea is to increase the role of governments in directing and operating the cyber space. Since Americans claim that they are going to defend their right to use cyber space without any hindrance, there is a growing difference but not only between Russia, China and the United States on the matter, but many other Western countries are also very much worried about the uncontrolled expansion of Internet and it being used by violent demonstrators, for example, in Britain the government of Britain is victim of many arranged demonstrations and this arrangement went through Internet and the Foreign Minister Hague has admitted that Internet requires some sort of control because it could not go uncontrolled like it is going now.

So, the problem is obviously there. But however Mr. Cross was insisting on what he termed as the openness of the Internet. Now the U.S. position as far as I understand it is that Internet should not be state controlled. But is there an alternative vision?

We have international efforts to start doing something. I already mentioned that there is Russian-Chine international code of conduct but there are meetings. For example, in Yekaterinburg recently this autumn there was a meeting of 52 countries arranged by our Security Council Office on the matters of Internet, and we have presented our views, Russian views, on that. Then in London on the 1st or on the 2nd of November there is going to be an international meeting for discussion of the problems of the global cyber space security.

But do the Americans support these efforts?

We must note that Americans got worried because there is definite effort to try to find common denominator on Internet among many countries. And as it is going now, it is definitely not on the American conditions but on the more balanced and serious attitude towards the possibility of controlling the cyber space. By the way, the treaty of collective security of former Soviet States recently had a meeting and there were critical elements in this meeting on this use of facebook, and tweeter, and youtube. This official dissemination of information is good but on the part of the Americans financial effort to support opposition and even insurgency activity in some countries, we have to admit that we don’t have the same kind of developed instruments for diplomacy in Internet but people say that Washington has established its position in the Internet and they do not want to see them, they don’t want to listen other countries and that’s why we have to deal with all kinds of possibilities. For example, Americans would sooner or later leave Afghanistan and we will see huge problems for the Central Asian nations. And we already see the elements of American policy in the field of using cyber space to influence the mood and the future behavior of the population of the Central Asia when we are going to see that secular regimes in number of these countries fall. And Americans would try to introduce their elements into the real life in the area, which is so vital for Russia.

So, just let me specify, we are talking about Central Asia, an area, which is so far away from the U.S. itself.

The experience shows that in Middle East, for example, Americans did not care. They brought out secular regimes and they now are very happy for a very short period of time with very dubious regimes with some dubious histories behind them.

Well, Mr. Yevstafiev, thank you very much and I am quite positive that we are going to discuss this subject in our future programs and just to remind you, our guest speaker was Gennady Yevstafiev, retired Lieutenant General of the Russian Intelligence Service.

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