ITAI & CySec: Progression in Simultaneity

Every century presents peculiar challenges to the national security which require a corresponding response. Countries, nations and societies continue their endeavor to negotiate these challenges. The biggest complexities that have emerged in the 21st century are the difficulties which came with the leaps made in the domain of Information Technology (IT) that have manifested in the form of internet, robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and social media. Today we see these rapid technological advancements yield innumerable benefits and advantages to the humanity but at the same time raise issues of cyber security challenges and information warfare.


The century has seen an egalitarian breakthrough in the form of social media platforms which give every individual the opportunity to determine issues that are critical for public discourse. It is a double-edged tool that can not only uplift a nation and bring people together but can also have adverse effects on the society such as division and subdivision of particular segments or influencing people along the lines of the propaganda employed by an adversary.


The dangers of cyber-crime have amplified for a wide range of reasons, from the poor technology, incapacity and absence of legislation to financial constraints, and lack of cooperation with international law enforcement agencies, and – most importantly – an underdeveloped cyber security system, which would act as a bulwark against ‘weaponisation’ of cyber world.


Hybrid conflicts have become the new normal of warfare with many nations and actors around the globe becoming embroiled in information and public opinion battlefields instead of using the conventional means of war. Pakistan, too, finds itself faced with such a challenge which has the potential to exploit the cleavages on different levels, such as exploiting issues within the society and with existing laws and forms of legislation as well as matters that are yet to be codified or aptly regulated. Well-masked propaganda campaigns primarily, and in some cases aggressively, target the inner system of the nation. While constructive criticism and rational debates on policies and practices are healthly, yet there are actors who carryout subversive activities and stay guised under the ‘freedom’ ploy to escape exposure and criticism.


In some cases, these subversive activities are aimed at building an information fog and project particular narratives to shape or frame issues in public and political decision-making discourse. The links between the information, its outlets or the persons or personas – for example fake profiles on social media – may not be clear in such divisive content. False narratives are being propagated to undermine Pakistan’s efforts in the war against terrorism including tell-tale reports sponsored by our neighboring intelligence agencies to create discord and smear Pakistan’s repute. They create confusion by using selective pieces of information to spread misinformation and negativity. In the face of such bombardment of conflicting news and unverified information, the audience may become unable to differentiate between right and wrong thus creating leeway for alternate narratives and distortions.


With each passing day, IT will spread to manifest itself in daily lives of nations and individuals through AI. They offer great opportunities that must be seized for a prosperous and secure tomorrow. But these advancements also bring with them the space for ‘misuse’ by both individuals and the states, thus posing challenges, too. Of course, we cannot proceed by ignoring these challenges or shying away from it, rather we have to embrace these and respond accordingly. Hence, we must remain technologically relevant and direct our energies in making further improvements and advancements in IT, prepare ourselves for AI and make sure to take cyber security hand in hand. ITAI and CySec (Information Technology, Artificial Intelligence and Cyber Security) are the defining contours of the future. These three must be approached and harnessed simultaneously.


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