Posted: 21.02.2024 12:12:22

Dual-use information

Victory is achieved not only through weapons, but also through words

Tanks, cannons and missiles pose a deadly threat, just like they did in the last century. Yet, in terms of its destructive power (not to sound too cynical), they are losing their positions in the global 
confrontation. The key danger already lies in the digital world. The main risks include cyber threats, fakes and artificial intelligence, which partially ensures the first two positions from the technological perspective. This area has long been under careful consideration of the military and special services responsible for national security. In Belarus, the draft National Security Concept and the draft Military Doctrine will be submitted to the Belarusian People’s Congress for approval. Anatoly Belous,
a corresponding member of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, talked about some aspects of modern ‘invisible wars’.

                        The President of Belarus,
                        Aleksandr Lukashenko,

“Cyberattacks are on the rise around the world. This may not be so typical for our country, yet facts have taken place. Strategically important facilities, government agencies, enterprises, and the banking system are subject to cyberattacks in the first place. That means that they target the vital infrastructure of any state, including ours. This is one of the elements of hybrid warfare, a very dangerous one. The purpose is to cause maximum damage to the economy and eventually destabilise society. It is true not only about Belarus, but also about any country chosen for an attack.”

At a meeting on cybersecurity,
on October 25th, 2022

On a new round

Quite a few liberal idealists (they are still encountered today) believed that after achieving nuclear parity, an era of
co-operation between great powers would begin. Since their confrontation leads to the self-destruction of human civilisation, there will only be local scale armed conflicts should they arise. It turned out to be a dystopia.
The confrontation has not disappeared, but has moved into a new sphere — a digital, information and psychological one. Starting from the end of the last century, the centre of the struggle began to shift into cyberspace. First, total war has become impossible in the nuclear era. Secondly, conventional weapons that also deploy digital and various high-tech devices are becoming prohibitively expensive. The price of the latest generation tank already exceeds ten million dollars, of an airplane — hundreds of millions, of aircraft carriers and cruisers — billions. Thirdly, relatively cheap yet effective means of destruction appear. Fourth, the concept of asymmetric conflicts and ‘pure wars’, which largely served as a basis for Western doctrines, is falling apart. Rich countries did not exclude their participation in local military operations. It was under the condition of complete and fundamental superiority over the enemy, though, when it is possible to hit the targets remotely, without coming into direct contact, and avoiding large human losses.

Fighting in an invisible space

According to Anatoly Belous, Americans were the first to seriously address the issue of dominance in cyberspace. 
The activation began back in the 90-ies of the last century. It would seem that the Cold War had ended, the Soviet threat had disappeared. Moreover, it was a great time to develop new technologies for dominating the world since there was no real opposition to the United States in those years. China was just beginning its ascent to economic power and to the status of one of the poles in the global world. The post-Soviet space was going through painful disintegration processes and a deep economic crisis. Europeans were carried away by ideas à la Francis Fukuyama, who believed that the history of wars, conquests and confrontation would end with the victory of liberal concepts.
I suppose that pragmatic and cynical Americans did not believe in this theory in the first place. Therefore, they quickly and purposefully got down to developing technologies for conquering a new generation. Luckily, in the conditions of monopolarity, it was possible for them to rearm calmly and systematically. Specialised structures and units were created in the Pentagon and intelligence agencies. Anatoly Belous provided an example of a new type of weapon — blogging. 
Fake accounts dedicated to a certain topic were created in the information space. Interestingly enough, the topic could be unfriendly or completely consistent with the official position of the adversary. Such blogs gather both supporters and opponents of certain ideas and become an inexhaustible source of intelligence information on the socio–political situation in the country. Social networks that have entangled the whole world allow creating and sending viral messages distorting reality, in a concentrated way.
A few hours (!) after the start of the Georgian–Ossetian conflict in 2008, photos of houses destroyed by shells appeared in the information space. The result of Georgian strikes on Tskhinvali was served up as the consequence of the Russian troops’ actions. Thus, the attacker immediately turned into a victim in the public consciousness. An even tougher 
confrontation in the information space is underway today — around the conflict in Ukraine, Gaza, incidents in the Middle East and the Red Sea.

Digital shield and sword

“We live in the post–truth era,” Anatoly Belous stated. “Once, the media was accused of one-sidedness of information. Then, fakes began to appear. Now, they are deepfakes, which can present completely fictional events as true, with realistic-looking visualisation that appears to be authentic. Modern technical means allow doing this. The era of information wars has come. And in the near future, this confrontation will only intensify.” Despite that, Anatoly Belous urged people not to panic.
Serious structures and research teams are dealing with cybersecurity issues, information wars and other problems of high-tech confrontation — both in Belarus and Russia.
Their activities and developments go under the radar for obvious reasons. In other words, they are marked as ‘top-secret’. Nevertheless, several fundamental works on cybersecurity have appeared in Belarus in recent years — they are available for study by both technical specialists and people without special training. In particular, Belarusian scientists were the first to publish the work ‘Viruses, Hardware and Software Trojans: Attacks and Countermeasures’, in which they were among the first in the world to analyse the theoretical and practical issues of introducing malware and trace elements into electronic equipment. In addition, our experts in liaison with Russian specialists have developed algorithms for detecting and neutralising such spies in microchips and electronic equipment, including those of foreign production.
“The main thing is for everyone to think, realise and draw conclusions about the world we live in,” Anatoly Belous is convinced. “I have realised that the information and digital space, despite being the benefit of civilisation, can hold certain dangers. It is important to be aware of them, understand all the risks and threats, curb them, and build security systems.”
It is certainly not worth suffering from phobias, such as not going online or not using electronic devices as the surest way to avoid a cyberattack, or disconnecting from progress stimulated by the digital space. Yet, all actions online should be thoughtful, prudent and conscious. The digital jungle is not scary if you follow the safety rules.


Elon Musk has recently announced on his account, on his own social network, about the first implantation of a 
neurochip into human brain. Neuralink, Musk’s startup company, is engaged in such developments. The device is
a receiver capsule that is attached behind the ear and connected to the brain with filamentous electrodes, the number
of which reaches 1.5 thousand. As stated by the developers, the device will allow you to control your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, with just the power of thought.
However, the regulatory authorities have quite a few questions for Neuralink with regard to animal cruelty — allegedly botched animal testing caused suffering and deaths of a lot of animals. Strangely enough, Musk was given permission to test his brain chip on humans. As they say on the sidelines, the businessman was in a hurry and ready to take risks
in order to become the first to penetrate deep into the human brain. Another question is — how will such experiments
and mind games end?!

By Vladimir Volchkov