OCdts. On Parade




By : 6560 Andrew Nellestyn PhD RMC Class of 1965

I read Lt Vessey’s captivating eVeritas 15 article. WOW!! Pen must be put to paper. No! Key strokes, 1s and 0s must express my thoughts and hence give substance to my OPINION. Thomas Huxley’s infinite monkey theorem expounded in 1860 at the Oxford Union debate in which he would have monkeys randomly type and create all of Shakespeare’s work – creation or design! A harbinger of the digital future! It is this and the impact and consequences of the digital divide to which Lt Vessey’s article addresses itself. I commend him for a most timely, excellent and comprehensive treatise on ICT (Information and Communications Technology) (eVéritas 15, April 11, 2010. Learning to Fight: Preparing for CF Computer Networks Operations by Lt JD Vessey). His insight into the need for digital network operations education and training in the CF is both a clarion call for effective and expedient action and a compliment to the CF for recognizing that secure computer networks operations are critical facets of defence and national security. Digital information systems are key factors to success on the battle field, protection and maintenance of national security, and effective, unwavering, and continuous global vigilance. These digital systems, their capabilities and applications, influence and shape national policy, strategy, doctrine, tactics, education, training, and equipment acquisition to a greater and accelerating degree with every passing day. Moore’s Law is in evidence everywhere and is most pervasive.

Cyber warfare is today’s reality and tomorrow’s continuing challenge and opportunity. Cybernetics, cloud computing, open software, networks, etc. are key elements in the ever expanding role of ICT. Attacks on national and allied ICT systems are prejudicial to our security and way of life; political, defence, intelligence, economic, values, etc. The most senior levels of government, defence, intelligence, academia, private sector, etc., must be aware, informed, and engaged. Given Canada’s woeful gap, vis-a-vis its friends and adversaries, in ICT capabilities, services, broadband capacity and speed (urban and rural) coupled with Canada’s exaggerated, restrictive competition policies, renders Canada even more vulnerable than its allies. Notwithstanding, Canada led and was successful last year in unmasking and breaking a botnet cell centred in China, popularly known as Ghostnet, which launched cyber-espionage attacks against governments, corporations, and individuals .The Canadian team consisted of a joint university-private sector team composed of The Citizen Lab, Munk Centre for Global Affairs, University of Toronto, headed by Dr. Ronald Diebert, and The SecDev Group (Ottawa) led by its Principal, Rafal Rohozinski.

How then to leverage this advantage and to ensure Canada is protected? In this regard RMC, in conjunction with the Canadian Forces (CF), DND, and the Canadian Defence Academy (CDA), have taken up challenge, Fight the Good Fight, to ensure that Canada squarely confronts and diminishes the possibility of a cyberspace Armageddon. Let there be no doubt about it, digital information and communications warfare is here and is here to stay! HG Wells and Orson Welles, War of the Worlds, and all the science-fiction authors and aficionados were most prescient. Or is the principle of self-fulfilling prophecies at work?

RMC’s initiative in preparing officers for these 1984-esque and Brave New World scenarios is to be applauded and is the mark of a leading and progressive, visionary academic and leadership institution. Designing courses for those, at all rank levels, who manage, operate, and maintain these systems is further testimony to the progressive steps being addressed by RMC, the CDA, and DND in remaining On Guard for Thee. The Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) Institute gave secure computing and cybernetics centre stage at a recent CDA Institute Round Table. Such is the prevalence and importance secure computing demands in this age of apocalyptic scenarios.

A glance at another Canadian contribution to this field, indeed, quite prescient, is the work of Canada’s renowned, infamous, information-age guru, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium is the Massage (Message); The Global Village; and War and Peace in the Global Village. Penguin Canada recently released another of its books in The Extraordinary Canadians Series, a must read compendium on the people and events which shaped Canada, entitled Marshall McLuhan by Douglas Coupland. The author assesses the relevance of MM’s work in today’s and tomorrow’s context. The engineering and science staff may well benefit from collaborating with their colleagues in the English Department and those who teach philosophy. The return of natural philosophy? Interdisciplinary teams produce the best results.

Lt Vessey has focused our attention on the duality of ICT as a means of doing good and yet presenting its destructive evil potential. He has offered a look into how to leverage education and training in the service of preparedness. Well done all!

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