‘Soft power in cyberspace, critical in modern warfare’

Army Commander Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake and other panelists at the event. Picture by Gayan Pushpika

The International Cyber Security Symposium ‘Wave’ and the ICT Exhibition organised by the Army Signal Corps to coincide with its 75th anniversary, commenced at the BMICH yesterday.

President Maithripala Sirisena graced the occasion as the chief guest at the invitation of the Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake.

The Symposium comprised of ICT experts from more than 10 countries, including India, China, UK, Pakistan, Singapore, Bangladesh, etc. and representatives of ICT-related industries.

President Maithripala Sirisena, flanked by the Secretary Defence, Secretary to Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, Tri-service Commanders, the Inspector General of Police, the SLSC Colonel Commandant and other distinguished invitees including foreign representatives, lit the traditional oil lamp.

In his opening remarks, Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake highlighted the significance of understanding the challenges of cyberspace.

“Soft power in cyberspace can play a vital and decisive role in modern-day battlefields. In other words, when battlefields become automated; when weapons systems are becoming more remotely-controlled, when communication systems combined with data transmissions become network-centric, and when soldiers in the battlefield are equipped and fed from automated information systems of video, voice and data; we must not forget that all such systems are highly vulnerable to cyber threats,” the Army commander said.

“Therefore, future battlefields are essentially required to operate in cyber environments, both offensive and defensive in nature. In this context, as the Commander of the Army, I believe that operating in cyber environments is an essential capability that the Sri Lanka Army should possess. Today, we have a Cyber Security Regiment in the Army,” he said.

He added that the army needed to explore the cyber domain and develop capabilities, mainly in the defensive sub-domain. “Then it will further strengthen the Army’s endeavour to become a capacity-based sustainable Army,” he said, “Therefore, I believe that this initiative by the Sri Lanka Signal Corps, to conduct a cybersecurity symposium, match the vision of the Army.”

Also addressing the gathering, keynote speaker Secretary Defence Hemasiri Fernando said that cyberspace activities would cripple the human race and stop almost everything in the world due to the its ‘connectivity’. “Youths are frequently drawn to the internet,” he said, adding that cyberspace was also used for money-laundering and other cyber-crimes.

“At the stroke of a button, you can cause a massive calamity and jeopardise national security. We need to look at it as a threat to human existence itself. We saw how the US gave prime priority to cyberspace threats, and we also knew how it worked during their elections, as they alleged. Considering what is going on, a cyber-war is inevitable and it is the result of this wide connectivity. Things would worsen unless due attention is paid and the expansion is carefully examined and halted on time,” Fernando added.

The three symposium sessions were held under an array of topics concerting cyber space and security related issues. These sessions were chaired by Chief Army Signal Officer Major General N.M. Hettiarachchi, British Army Chief Information Officer Major General Jon Cole and CICRA Holdings Group Director/Chief Executive Officer Boshan Dayaratna.

A panel of local and foreign experts delivered lectures during the symposium sessions. The exhibition, with more than 160 stalls, will be open to the public until tomorrow.


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