21st Century Warfare: How Information Technology Has Fundamentally Changed Global Warfare - An Analysis of Insurgencies’ Use of IT

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
This paper utilizes a qualitative approach to provide a case study analysis of the rising use of technology by insurgents. Examining the literature and making a comparative analysis of the trends of recent years allowed the researcher to come to the conclusion of the rising necessity of cybersecurity in contemporary warfare. A quantitative approach in such a case would have been limited due to the lack of reliable statistics available as well as the more sterile nature of results it would provide. The 21st century has seen a change in the type of warfare waged globally. Whereas the 20th century was characterized by decolonization and states warring against one another, the 21st century has witnessed a shift in global warfare where non-state actors such as radical groups are gaining momentum and causing significant mayhem. The accessibility of radical groups to wage war on a global level has been exacerbated in recent years by the widespread usage of information technology on an individual level and the resulting compression of time and space. Both these factors, the rise of non-state actors and the usage of information technology, has disrupted the way global warfare is waged. This dissertation focuses on examining the ways in which global security in the 21st century has changed due to insurgents’ access to information technology. By focusing heavily on the available literature and findings conducted of the insurgents in Iraq and Syria, this research aims to provide recommendations on the ways in which governments must now reassess their security needs by taking into account the changes in 21st century information technology. Information technology is a double-edged sword; the abuse of it by the wrong hands can cause global chaos, however, it is also a fundamentally important tool in the counterterrorism effort as well. As technology continues to advance and as social networks and IT equipment become more accessible to individuals, a major portion of global antiterrorism efforts will shift to the digital sphere. After reviewing the findings from literature and references of insurgents’ usage of IT, it became clear that social media was a catalyst for the rapid spread of their ideology and propaganda. Social media networks were used both to brainwash the public and recruit new members. Government websites and databases were hacked by cyberattacks and sensitive information made public. These findings from the literature review conducted; demonstrated that they had a well developed, deeply-strategized IT and media strategy and that when they emerged globally seemingly overnight, the world was taken aback and governments were unprepared with how to deal with their digital prowess. This has brought to light the importance of a globally concerted effort to give cyberterrorism the importance it deserves in counterterrorism efforts.
information technology, global warfare, cybersecurity, cyberterrorism, counterterrorism efforts