A good part of the soldiers of our day do not carry firearms. Not even knives, unless the keyboard of a computer or a wireless mouse can be considered sharp elements. Neither are the battlefields the same: the war between nations takes place on the internet and is fought between ones and zeros.
For this reason, it is not surprising that Russia recently announced that will be temporarily disconnected from the Internet to test your Sovereign Network project. China prohibits platforms such as Google, Facebook or Twitter in its borders; the limitations are somewhat greater in the case of North Korea. Only two million of its inhabitants -about 25 million people live in the country- they have access to a local internet that barely has twenty web pages.
The colonel and geopolitical analyst Pedro Baños divides the threats faced by countries on the internet in two groups. On the one hand, there are countries that perceive that their instability can be increased by the diffusion of certain information, whether false or true. This can result in the population mobilizing to cause disturbances and is a threat that more authoritarian countries perceive to a greater extent.
On the other hand, The internet can also be seen as an instrument of war with which a State can to hack the computer systems of another to collapse or steal information. Not to mention that from the nuclear power plants to the water and electricity supplies are controlled in our days through the internet.
In this framework, the most advanced countries wonder how they could survive an attack of this nature. "Disconnecting their systems for a few hours, Russia can check if it has the capacity to overcome an attack, if it is able to live in an analogical way", illustrates the colonel. "It's an intelligent practice, since cyberspace is a very tough battlefield and countries have to be aware that the threat exists"
The Russian strategy would then be to take advantage of the internet while they feel safe, but have the ability to disconnect if they perceive a threat. Something similar to a drawbridge that lowers in commercial peacetime and rises when the enemy approaches.
The case of China, in the opinion of Baños, responds to different motivations. The fundamental one would be to avoid the temptation to mobilize the population through social networks. "It is a strategy that has worked in the Arab revolts: instill ideas in the population through the internet so that they can oppose the government, "he recalls.
Some countries try to recover sovereignty in some way over the virtual equivalent to their territory.
Ángel Gómez de Ágreda, author of the book Mundo Orwell: Survival Manual for hyperconnected world
But this is not the only reason: there are much deeper reasons that have to do with their authority and control capacity. "The scenario in which we live is based on artificial platforms, often private. Some countries try to recover sovereignty in some way over the virtual equivalent to their territory. They want to have more control over the data of their citizens to be able to influence them before third countries do, "explains Ángel Gómez de Ágreda, author of the book Mundo Orwell: Survival Manual for hyperconnected world. The writer is colonel of the Air Force and former head of the Cooperation section of the Joint Cyber Defense Command.
The strategy seems to work. The Great Cybermuralla that China has raised against global platforms such as Google and Facebook has allowed the boom of Baidu and Wechat, its national counterparts. The collection of personal information from these platforms serves the country to compete in the field of artificial intelligence, a technology that needs large amounts of data to thrive. If we attend one of the most hackneyed phrases of any technological event –"The data is the oil of the 21st century", experts repeat over and over again-, we see that, in this context, information becomes for nations one of the most valuable raw materials to be exploited.
At this point, Gomez makes a call to Europe: "If we do not worry about creating our platforms and develop technology in the line of artificial intelligence or 5G networks, we will be opening the door to other powers that are ahead. This is how the cyberspaces of sovereignty are conquered. "
Europe must empower its own ecosystems, but without neglecting its security. Spain is one of the countries that receives the most cyber attacks in the world; specifically, the fifth, according to Kaspersky Lab data. "We should better protect our systems, both state and private," warns Baños. "We have several cybersecurity departments that are doing a very good job, but we have a long way to go if we compare ourselves with other countries."
After all, Russia and China are not the only examples of countries that choose to heavily shield themselves on the Internet to protect their borders. "Probably the most advanced are the Baltic countries, who have suffered numerous attacks, and Israel and Iran, who are in a permanent battle against their adversaries and perceive threats more frequently, "says Baños.
At the other extreme is North Korea, which takes advantage of international platforms to carry out attacks of political propaganda, disinformation and hacks to various multinationals under the protection of their immunity in the network. "The country does not commercially take advantage of the Internet, but this also has its advantages. If you do not have infrastructure, they can not attack you, "explains Gómez.