Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A Cyberattack Campaign for Syria

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A Cyberattack Campaign for Syria

Article excerpt

U.S. policy makers should consider a cybercampaign to give Syrians the ability to communicate freely online.

Last week Syrians lost access to the Internet for the second time in a month. While the Assad regime claims that the lapses were the result of a faulty network link, the evidence suggests that they were deliberate efforts by the government to hamper the opposition's ability to communicate inside the country and with the outside world.

As American policy makers debate additional measures to put pressure on President Bashar al-Assad and aid moderate elements of the opposition, they should consider a military cybercampaign to give Syrians the ability to communicate freely online. Doing so would serve America's strategic interests, while also demonstrating a principled commitment to Internet freedom.

For example, through the U.S. military's new Cyber Command, the United States could create a digital "safe haven," akin to physical safe havens for refugees, by deploying long-distance Wi-Fi technologies along Syria's borders and in rebel-held areas in coordination with vetted opposition groups. Platforms that enable transmission of Wi-Fi signals over distances of up to 60 miles are already in use in parts of South Asia and other rural markets.

With a guarantee of secure Internet access points, Syrian opposition groups would be able to link their terrestrial and wireless networks with those of like-minded groups. This would enable them to reach deeper into the country, giving broad sections of the Syrian populace Internet access. And because the United States would be able to monitor those networks, Washington could make sure that moderate Syrian opposition elements would be the primary beneficiaries.

Subsequent actions could include measures to counter the Assad regime's capacity to monitor opposition communications within the existing telecommunications infrastructure.

All of this could be done without putting American boots on the ground: U.S. Cyber Command specialists could monitor these opposition-held networks from afar to counter any attempts by the Assad regime to interfere with them, while training moderate opposition elements to be able to operate and protect their own digital communications. …

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