Information Warfare: If We Own Your Data We Own Your Ass
For the military the Internet (and networks in general) and computers (especially the smart phone) have changed everything, especially how troops operate in combat. The military is still scrambling to make the most of these new and, for most, unexpected technologies. Less unexpected was the growing number of databases and software able to quickly find patterns that are otherwise undetectable and indecipherable. That sort of thing had been developing for over a century (since the invention of the punch card and mechanical tabulating devices, a technology that lasted into the 1980s). But suddenly you not only had unimaginable amounts of data, but you had it anytime, anywhere.
All this began during the war in Iraq. At the same time the Department of Defense adopted many practices that major police departments had long employed to track down criminals. Troops in Iraq, especially reservists who were police noted that the war in Iraq was mostly police work (seeking individual terrorists among a large population of innocent civilians). One of the more useful techniques for this is biometrics. That is, every time the troops encounter a “person of interest”, they don’t just take their name and address, they also use SEEK to collect the biometric data. The fingerprints are particularly useful because when they are stored electronically you can search and find out immediately if the print you have just lifted from somewhere else, like off the fragment of a car bomb, is in there or not. The digital photos, from several angles, are also useful because these pictures are run through software that creates a numeric “ID” that can be used by security cameras to look for someone specific, or for finding someone from a witness description. Other nations are digitizing their mug shots, and this enables these people to be quickly checked against those in the American database.
The big innovation was the tremendous increase in the use of biometric (fingerprints, iris, facial recognition) identification. Before long the U.S. has developed tools that enabled combat troops to use biometrics on the battlefield. The main tool was called SEEK (Secure Electronic Enrolment Kit). This is a portable electronic toolkit that collects biometrics from people anywhere and at any time. This included fingerprint scans, eye (iris) scans, and digital photos of suspects. All this eventually ends up in a master database, which soon contained data on millions of terrorists, suspected terrorists, their supporters, and other “persons of interest”. Troops in the field can carry part of that database with them in their SEEK kits, so that wanted people can quickly be identified and captured. This is what the American commandos did on the 2011, Osama bin Laden raid. While DNA tests (which take hours to perform, on not-so-portable equipment) are the best form of ID, if you have fingerprints, iris scans, and a photo you are nearly as certain. Even just fingerprints and the face scan/photo is pretty convincing.