Why Data is the Achilles’ Heel of Modern Warfare

The fundamental principle of winning a war is overpowering one’s enemy. Success has been achieved in many different ways over the centuries, but the fundamental principle has not changed. Perhaps this is why our military is investing so much time and effort into harnessing big data. It turns out that data is the Achilles’ heel of modern warfare.

If a story appearing on the War on the Rocks website is to be believed, the U.S. military is in the process of launching cyber-attacks on its own networks in an attempt to deal with the data problem. What they are doing represents just one aspect of data in modern warfare. Until they get a handle on big data, it will create more problems than it solves.

A Simple DDoS Attack

The most visible representation of the big data problem actually dates back to 2014 and the Russia-Crimea conflict. Russia decided that overwhelming Crimea with brute military force was not in its best interests. Instead, they went after the enemy with data. Russia launched a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack for the express purpose of preventing Crimean military units from communicating.

DDoS attacks are quite simple. They involve overwhelming networks with so much data that they cannot process it all. Regular communication is interrupted, and, in some cases, the networks completely shut down. Hackers have used such attacks for years to bring down corporate networks.

This explains why the U.S. military is launching attacks against its own networks. They have to find ways to deal with the data overload. A big part of what they are working on is signal processing capability. You cannot necessarily stop DDoS attacks from being launched, so you need signal processing technology capable of filtering out excess data and keeping networks up.

Analytics in Warfare

Dealing with DDoS attacks is just the tip of the iceberg. Military minds are also working on ways to adapt analytics to modern warfare. According to big data experts and defense contractor Rock West Solutions, analytics are the next big thing in overcoming the enemy.

Data analytics are currently used throughout the corporate world to address everything from marketing to strategic development. Modern analytics is based on the concept that, given enough time and computing power, it is possible to identify and analyze relationships between separate data points coming from multiple streams.

Analytics can tell a company how well its marketing efforts are doing in relation to key performance indicators. Analytics can help researchers predict the likelihood of a certain demographic group being diagnosed with a particular illness. It is truly amazing. Military planners want that same capability.

They want to be able to harvest a ton of data from the battlefield and use it to determine the enemy’s next move. They want the ability to simulate battle plans within a highly accurate scenario that allows them to make adjustments long before the actual battle begins.

More Efficient Management

You cannot talk about big data in modern warfare without talking about management aspects. No war is conducted in the absence of administrative and support efforts undertaken behind battle lines. And unfortunately, military units are only as efficient as the management behind them. Big data can help here, too.

Today’s military runs on data. More than at any other time in history, our military leaders need constant access to accurate data. They also need the ability to use data to maximum advantage. They do not have that ability yet. And until they do, big data will continue to be the Achilles’ heel of modern warfare.

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