THE NEXT GENERATION OF WARFARE – CYBER-SOLDIERS AT YOUR SERVICE. There was something unexpected that came with the news that Sweden was going to increase the number of conscripts for military service to 5000 starting next year. This time, the Swedish public was made aware that, for the first time, its first “cybersoldiers” were joining the ranks. This comes at a time when the world has brought warfare to another dimension – in cyberspace. Not only has Sweden’s own defense industry realized this, but that of the world and its various geopolitical powers, too; Russia, the United States, Israel – resources and capabilities like never before are allocated to the world of cyber. This next step by Sweden is already replicated in other countries, but has now been formally given the name of cyber-soldiers in the Northern country. The next stage is here . . .
The fifth generation of warfare . . .
When it comes to geopolitics and the addition of technological advancements, there is something fascinating yet terrifying that is brought to the table. People do not realize the reality that is already before us and is happening as we continue to see the more tangible aspects of military confrontation. Proxy wars, false flags, provocations and shady activities conducted by third parties – we hear about them constantly in the news. This, however, is nowadays blurry when it comes to its labelling. Fourth generation warfare is when the nation state loses its centralized monopoly power on the world stage and when non-state actors come into play. We know, of course, about terrorism and events in low-intensity conflict but the next stage is truly something bizarre. An interesting article appeared in 2009 on Wired.com titled How to Win a Fifth-Generation War where it defined the new battlefield as being “something strange – Cyberspace or the Cleveland water supply, or Wall Street\’s banking systems, or Youtube. The mission will be instilling fear, and it will succeed”. A decade later and we are seeing interesting events come to fruition. Attacks on state power grids, disinformation, propaganda, attacks on cyber-infrastructure and the clash of ideas in a globalized world – you don’t need conventional guns – it’s all in the realm of cyber. What does Sweden have in mind to tackle these challenges from its own perspective? Remember, every nation has its goals, ideas and visions to implement and by not considering the sphere of cyber would be detrimental.
From 4000 to 5000 conscripts starting 2020 and 30 places allocated towards becoming cybersoldiers. These will not be internet trolls writing mean comments on someone’s Twitter post but will strive to firstly defend the cyber-infrastructure of Sweden’s defence forces. This will be in collaboration with other authorities, such as the FRA and the Security Police of Sweden. There is an added detail to what their activities will be that makes it more interesting. According to NyTeknik, the Swedish Armed Forces do have the objective to generate offensive cyber-capabilities. If you want to understand why, think of it in terms of deterrence theory; it makes sense that actors in the cyber-arena attempt to penetrate gaps in their opponents’ defenses and having the ability to do this, there is the promise of retaliation and a cyber-version of “mutually assured destruction” (MAD in nuclear weapons deterrence). What is possible when it comes to nuclear weapons and quite difficult in the world of cyber, is knowing whether or not the enemy has found such gaps in your defenses. Russia and the United States are more-or-less aware of what the other is capable of but in cyber, there is a degree of vagueness that makes it more interesting but also the more terrifying.
Additional news came this week as it became known that KTH (Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan) in Stockholm was given a role in educating these new cybersoldiers that will start in the autumn of next year. The Swedish Armed Forces and KTH will establish a joint center for research and education in cyber defense and information security. The curriculum will include everything from cryptography and ethical hacking to network and software security. It will be a technically-focused course. It should be noted that it isn’t the first step that Sweden is taking to prepare itself for the new front; in March it became known that the Armed Forces are creating a special “cyber-range” that acts like a regular shooting-range, except in this case there are no bullets but a server hall that mimics IT systems to attack or defend against. The location of this server hall still remains a mystery.
Predicting the future in such a turbulent age is difficult – but it is a certainty that having a firm grasp over the world of cyber is a necessity. While Sweden may not play a prominent role in geopolitical conflicts or proxy wars, the future will be such that lesser actors can take a more hands-on role. We are already seeing a gradual shift towards this new fifth generation of warfare – it may be bizarre and unpredictable but it is one that anyone willing to stay relevant will need to come to terms with. For the moment, Sweden is holding its ground in preparation.
Evolvera – evolve in a new era