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Cyber-Mercenaries

Cyber Mercenaries

We can outsource manual labor and also mental labor such as services – like call-centers. By outsourcing we mainly refer to a process in which labor is taking place in a different country than before. We are using it mostly in the context of globalization and making use of it because it is cheaper to produce somewhere else than where you produced before. Can we also outsource security?

Having security ‘produced’ in a different country than your own seems a bit odd. In the beginning of the evolution of what we call no the model of a western nation-state, states where in fact outsourcing their security. European countries where paying mercenaries to secure their borders. As soon as someone else paid more – or promised them more for that matter – they changed sides. Thus, they were not genuinely a ‘product’ of a certain state but rather in between states and serving the one which was paying the highest amount. That this did not work out was shown by the nation-states implementing taxes, raising their own, standing, armies and eventually defeating the mercenaries.

In the current times it is difficult to imagine that either the services or the R&D of a countries’ military can be outsourced. Of course, weapon technologies such as tanks are produced in some countries and then sold to other countries. That however is a rather low example of outsourcing security but it still is. So the buyers on the international arms market (and also international black arms market) are not only trading weapon technologies but also outsourcing their security to a certain degree.

What can also be regarded as outsourcing of security is being member of a military alliance or having a military partner. Writing this words down, my mind came out with two current examples: the NATO and the American-Philippine relationship. There are a lot more examples but just to put them empirical evidence on the theory skeleton, I wanted to mention it. Basically, the NATO states themselves do not need to have a large security force because they could – in case of an attack – theoretically always count on the troops of the partners. Subsequently, the alliance relies on the collective and therefore outsources parts of their security. They expect the collective to help them. Empirically, it is difficult to prove if there has been produced one fewer German tank just because there is the assumption that in the case of a foreign attack on German soil, the NATO will send their tanks to also defend German soil.

After the second World War, there have been quite some American military basis on Philippine soil. The Americans ‘freed’ the Philippines from Japanese occupation and extended the relation between their two countries with military and economic contracts. Due to the situation of the Philippine military, in case of a major war or conflict (for example with China) their only hope would be the outsourcing of their security to the United States – them securing the Philippine soil per se. Could that work the other way around as well?

If you are a frequent reader of my blog, you are most likely asking yourself when I will finally come to the point where I talk about Information- and Communication Technologies. Here it is: ‘Cyberwarfare call-centers’. The Philippine people are widely known for having terrific English language skills and at the same time being able to pick up and imitate dialects very well. So, there, a lot of call-centers are mushrooming in that country. The pay is good and obviously the service as well. There is another trade of Filipinos…who coded the ILuvU virus? Some hacker in the Philippines.

On the defensive level it is pretty easy to see that outsourcing of cyber-security is not a good idea. If I want to have my borders secured by another power, I ask them to deploy submarines or tanks there. Not a big problem. If I ask them to secure my cyber-borders however, I would have to give them access to my computer systems along with administrator rights. Subsequently, the ‘cyber agents’ would gain access to my crucial data. Putting my country in that situation is not very smart and would also no really be liked by any military staff. So, we cannot do that. At least we should not do that if we really like our information infrastructure.

What we might be able to do however is to hire cyber mercenaries from another country to carry out attacks, retaliation and pro-active defense (ya.. I don’t like that term), meaning: offensive actions. Because these people would not belong to the US army – and not even having US passports – I would rather call them cyber-mercenaries than contracted-foreign-cyber-army. Cyber-mercenaries could also be hired within your own country but for the sake of outsourcing, we are going for this kind of group in a foreign country. Imagine a w(D)ell-equipped cyber-laboratory, with the brightest Philippine hackers waiting for the call from their contractor – the US government – to tell them what to probe and hack. Cheaper, less ties, plausible denial are some of the advantages which pop up in my mind if I think about that.

I hope that I did not wake any sleeping tigers but…give it some thoughts, does it sound so far-fetched?

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