The Impact of IoT on Information Warfare

The Impact of IoT on Information Warfare

Brett van Niekerk (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa), Barend H. Pretorius (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa), Trishana Ramluckan (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) and Harold Patrick (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4763-1.ch005


The Fourth Industrial Revolution is seen as a digital one, extending the previous information revolution. This is exhibited by the pervasive connectivity of many smart devices, known as the internet of things (IoT). The data generated and access created by these devices provides opportunities in an information warfare context by providing new avenues of attack and abilities to enhance existing capabilities. Recent cyber-attacks have illustrated the relevance of IoT to cyber-operations. However, IoT can influence information warfare through the use of drones, the extent of network-centric operations, and other factors. The major impact of IoT is the increased attack surface and techniques available, and opportunities for data gathering.
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The Fourth Industrial Revolution is seen as a digital one, extending the previous information revolution. “It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres” (Schwab, 2015). This is exhibited by the pervasive connectivity of many smart devices, known as the Internet of Things (IoT). These systems can generate more data than before, and provide remote access and control over basic daily tasks to more complex industrial processes. This may provide opportunities in an information warfare (IW) environment to enhance operations and capabilities or provide new avenues for attack. As IoT has the potential to complicate the already complex IW operational concept, it is important to investigate the implications thereof in order to begin the discussion of identifying new threats and mitigating these.

The IoT concept usually refers to network-capable ‘smart’ devices, and is sometimes called the Internet of Trouble (Kenny, 2017), ominously referring to the possible security issues. They usually comprise of sensors, and transmit the data over some form of network, and some are able to perform functions or control physical processes (Government Accountability Office, 2017). For an IoT architecture, there are commonly three layers: the sensors, the network layer, and the applications layer with which humans will interact (Kumar & Patel, 2014). While the IoT concept appears recent, in practice the forerunners have been part of everyday life for years and are often missed when IoT is discussed. Examples include office multi-function devices (printer, fax, and scanner) and some industrial systems that have had remote connections. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) differ from IoT. Henning (2015) defines the IIoT as machines, input / output devices and controllers that manufacture the IoT devices such as smart TVs, toasters, and smart wearables. Consumers use IoT whereas engineers and manufactures use IIoT. Technologies behind IIoT have existed for many years, these include remote access, and cloud and are an evolution as the underlying data are now being accessed. The technologies behind IoT is a revolution as consumers are being exposed to it for the first time. Bowne (2015) list some differences:

  • IIoT is an evolution versus commercial IoT being a revolution;

  • IIoT can leverage off existing devices and standards versus IoT including new devices and requiring additional standards;

  • IIoT can often be mission critical versus IoT being at most important;

  • IIoT has more structured connectivity versus IoT’s ad-hoc connectivity.

A similar concept which expands IoT to the Internet of Everything, which also includes non-physical entities (Simmons, 2015). In addition to the advantages to industry (hence the term Fourth Industrial Revolution), IoT has advantages for city management and service delivery to citizens, known as “smart cities” (Clarke, 2013). Due to the pervasive connectedness of devices and the data they generate, IoT can be seen as closely connected with other technological trends, such as big data analysis, cloud computing, social media and mobile computing (Clarke, 2013). A challenge becomes when there are devices that are connected, which can be considered unnecessary, such as toasters, particularly if they have security vulnerabilities (Vaughn-Nichols, 2017). Due to the possible over-connectedness, there are opportunities to leverage or abuse IoT for IW purposes that is scalable to impact an individual to a city, or possibly wider.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Drones: Vehicles or systems that are remotely controlled or piloted over networked or radio communications.

Psychological Operations: Information-based operations targeting the psyche of the audience to influence decision making or behavior.

Cyber-Security: Protecting information, systems, and networks from cyber-threats.

Internet of Things: The proliferation of “smart” connected devices.

Cyber-Attack: Attacks conducted in cyber-space primarily aimed at disrupting information services or operations, steal information, or making political statements.

Strategic Communication: Engaging audiences to shape conditions favorable to the communicator’s objectives.

Electronic Warfare: Denying adversary use of the electromagnetic spectrum while protecting one’s own activities in the spectrum.

Industrial Internet of Things: An evolution of industrial control systems along the lines of the internet of things.

Microcomputer: Small computing device that provides basic processing, with expansions for various input/output and communication options.

Critical Infrastructure Protection: The protection of infrastructure critical to national or social cohesion from cyber and physical threats.

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