Paper Edition | Page: 6
In 2012, Indonesia’s Defense Ministry allocated US$280 million to acquire 44 main battle tanks (MBT) in an effort to minimize gaps in Indonesia’s defense capabilities. The determination to rectify this gap is a breakthrough that needs to be appreciated, particularly in consideration of the vast territorial integrity of Indonesia that needs to be defended and the wide threat spectrum.
Nevertheless, the determination to address considerable gaps in military equipment does not always have to be piloted by procuring conventional weaponry that could also ignite regional arms race, especially since budgetary constraints Indonesia suffers from impacts the imperceptibly of procurement. Defense procurements in one military fi eld will create trade-offs for other military fields.
The notion of asymmetric warfare is an alternative concept that can be developed and implemented in a strategy to cope with Indonesia’s lack of defense instruments.
Asymmetric warfare itself is a model of war that has been developed from ways of thinking outside of the normative war comportment, and one that has both a vast war spectrum capability and often breaches certain war regulations. This is a result of resource limitations that various actors face in war.
The application of asymmetric warfare has been spreading since the confl ict between the US and al-Qaeda, noted by the 9/11 attack in New York, United States. In this confl ict, with limited resources to attack the US, al-Qaeda employs asymmetrical warfare tactics by using hijacked airplanes to attack vital targets in the US.
This is the unique feature of the strategy; asymmetric warfare exploits the weakest point of an opponent and uses competitive advantages in an optimum way.
In the 9/11 attacks, the al-Qaeda network used the weaknesses in US’s fl ight services (at that time), and exploited their own resources in the form of the indoctrination of “a Syahid Death” within its supporters. With that strategy, al-Qaeda achieved their attacks on vital objects in the US.
Here, we can see that asymmetric warfare emerged as an effect of resource limitations. In this limited condition of resources, battle success would have to be achieved through limited budget and resources through tactical and strategic innovations.
That is why asymmetric warfare does not need an excessive budget — a prominent feature in the effort to fulfi ll conventional defense capabilities.
Grounded in that concept, the development of strength through the strategy of asymmetric warfare is appropriate for Indonesia, which struggles with the bounds of budgets and other resources in defense.
One aspect of asymmetric warfare that the Defense Ministry urgently needs to develop is cyber war, more commonly known as cyber warfare. Cyber warfare is conducted through both media cables and wireless networks between confl icting actors by using information technologies.
Cyber warfare attacks are basically intended to defeat enemies by crippling or manipulating their abilities to process or access information in strategic interest areas such as military, economic, sociocultural, political and other fi elds that form the core of a nation’s resilience.
The advantage of a cyber-attack in the disruption of networks and the ensuing disarray it causes. The technique of crippling such networks in cyber warfare is relatively low-cost, untraceable and does not result in the loss of life or injuries.
That is why cyber attacks have relatively small consequences on the reputation of the attacker in the international arena. Nevertheless, the impact of a cyber attack on a target can be devastating and vital. In 2007 and 2008, a Russian distributed denial of service (DDoS) cyber attack on succeeded in crippling network systems of Georgia and Estonia.
Estonia suffered the most devastating impact as a country with an immense dependence on internet networks. Russian cyber attacks on Estonia crippled communication networks, which had knock-on effects in monetary networks and economic transactions, generating mass panic and uprisings.
Comparable situations can also happen in Indonesia, which at the moment continues to improve communication networks and infrastructure to ease communication and transactions. A cyber attack on a country with as many as 55 million Internet users would have a devastating impact, especially on Java Island.
A study by the Indonesian Defense University (Bonavena, 2012) found that the main weakness in Indonesia’s cyber infrastructure is in its monetary institutions, especially in its internet banking services. Out of the 10 biggest banking institutions by assets, two had relatively large cyber security weaknesses, resulting in the possibility of a breach with relatively little diffi culty.
If these weaknesses can be used for a cyber attack, the potential loss for a national private bank as a result of a denial in operation for one day is Rp 2.12 trillion (US$223 million), or some 10.87 percent of the nation’s money supply.
Meanwhile, the potential losses for a state-owned bank as a result of a crippled ATM network are predicted to top Rp. 97.92 billion. The potential economic losses could be devastating and might last for a lengthy period.
If the ensuing banking trouble happened repeatedly, it could contribute to a larger direct attack on Indonesia’s social solidity. Cyber defense weaknesses can be very dangerous. In armed confl ict, monetary and banking sectors can become the main targets of cyber attacks in order to cripple the fi nancing of defense logistics. That is why the determination to advance cyber defense is imperative.
In ideal circumstances, preparations for possible asymmetric warfare in the fi eld of cyber warfare begin by establishing a cyber command, tasked specifi cally to secure governmental cyber infrastructure (including defense and military institutions) and also private institutions that are important to a country’s economy and its resilience.
Such an agency is hopefully be able to prepare against potential cyber attacks on strategic national assets, increase the ability to cope with cyber incidents and to mitigate the damage that such an attack might cause Indonesia.
The security of the government’s cyber infrastructure, and that of other vital sectors, is an undeniable cause for the development of technology. The application of asymmetric warfare in the context of defense budget limitations can also present alternative strategies for the nation’s defense.
Coky Ringgo Bonavena is a cyber warfare observer at the Indonesian Defense University. Agus HS Reksoprodjo is an advisor to the TNI commander, C4SR Division. The opinio ns expressed are personal.