John Robb, an Air Force veteran of the special operations community has summarized the ability of the Mumbai terrorists to use readily available, off-the-shelf technology to mount their vicious attack. Blackberrys were used in real time to, apparently, hack into and monitor the police response to the carnage; cell phones were used to coordinate tactics. Notably, after cable television lines into the building were cut, the attackers accessed local and worldwide media coverage, including the forces mounted against them, over the internet. E-mail was sent to taunt the local media (and the public).
In one of the articles referenced by Robb, Noah Shactman of Wired.com reminds us of former U.S. Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid’s complaint that, “with their Radio Shack stockpile of communications gear, ‘this enemy is better networked than we are’.”
As John writes, “…these guerrillas were better connected to both the tactical and strategic environment than any US and other developed nation military personnel have ever been (the opposition believes in the strategic corporal, why don’t we?)”. John’s book, Brave New War, and his blog, http://GlobalGuerrillas.com, provide commentary on the modern phenomenon of, what he refers to as, ‘open source’ warfare.
For me at least there are several clear implications of this:
- The civilian authorities need the ability to turn off the wireless data and telecommunications systems, e.g. cell phones, Blackberries in the case of an emergency. Do they have this now? I have no idea. What safeguards would be required for this is something that should be seriously considered.
- The police and military shouldn’t be using these civilian utilities. They need to be on an entirely different spectrum and have serious security.
- The use of these technologies by essential resources, e.g. hospitals, emergency services, etc. needs to considered seriously.
- Dropping your wired phone line is ill-considered.