This Wired article by Spencer Ackerman, “U.S. Has Secret Tools for Internet on Dictators,” suggests that the internet can be the future battlefield for dealing with Mubarak-like dictators and civic oppression. When a country’s internet connection is suspended, Americans can sail their fancy WiFi boat near the dead zone and revive her.
Consider the Commando Solo, the Air Force’s airborne broadcasting center. A revamped cargo plane, the Commando Solo beams out psychological operations in AM and FM for radio, and UHF and VHF for TV. Arquilla doesn’t want to go into detail how the classified plane could get a denied internet up and running again, but if it flies over a bandwidth-denied area, suddenly your Wi-Fi bars will go back up to full strength.
“We have both satellite- and nonsatellite-based assets that can come in and provide access points to get people back online,” Arquilla says. “Some of it is done from ships. You could have a cyber version of pirate radio.”
If the fanciest of routers does not work, there are other possibilities to disrupt, or rather fix, a places communication infrastructure.
Alternatively, operatives could smuggle small satellite dishes into a country. Small dishes were crucial togetting the internet back running in Haiti after last year’s earthquake. It’s how cameramen in war zones rapidly transmit high quality video from the middle of nowhere.
Of course it sounds peaceful, non-violent and even reasonable; but if we are talking about a situation much like the recent protests in Egypt, where the presence of international journalists bothered Mubarak-thugs and was enough for politicians to blame the protests on international meddlers, then any interference will be considered hostile and could have violent consequences.
The trouble is, if a government follows Egypt’s lead and turns off the internet, it’s not going to be keen to see a meddling foreign power turn it back on.
That act might not be as provocative as sending in ground troops or dropping bombs. But it’s still an act of what you might call forced online entry — by definition, a hostile one.