Cyber-warfare: Definition and Threats

Cyber-warfare is much more than simple data hacks. It is the systematic attack onto government or corporate systems with the goal of large scale disruption of services. With cyber-warfare, there is a set target and goal oftentimes leading to anarchy or the distribution or altering of classified information. Cyber War is something that takes very few resources, therefore, any country, group, or even individual can wage a cyber-attack that can cripple even the most sophisticated traditional military might.

History of Attacks and Areas Under Threat

Cyber-warfare has been around longer than most of us may think. One of the early examples of a successful cyber-attack took place in 1998, when the United States hacked into Serbia’s defense system to aid with the bombing of Serbian targets. The United States itself was a target of an attack in 2007 which stole large swaths of data from military offices. These two attacks had very limited and specific targets, but that isn’t always the case.

In 2009, over 100 countries were attacked in a large-scale battle called “GhostNet”. Moving into the present there are current investigations into cyber-attacks interfering with the 2016 United States election.

Cyber-warfare is unique in that it can affect business, governmental, and our social lives. Rather than having to select one target (for example bombing a military base) as in more traditional warfare, the interconnected world we live in allows for targets across many platforms of life at once. The United States and other governments are subject to thousands upon thousands attacks each year. They seek classified information or in some cases have revealed personal data about government employees.

For businesses, it is a huge financial expenditure. Protecting against these attacks cost hundreds of billions of dollars a year and still many companies lose millions to cyber-attacks. Perhaps the most insidious of all the attacks are the social media attacks. These can involve stealing of personal data or identity theft or it by trolling and spreading misinformation to persuade the public.

Who is Behind It

Russia and China are the two main threats in the world of cyber-warfare. In fact, there is so much risk, that the U.S. Director of National Intelligence ranks cyber-crime as the No. 1 national security threat, because of the devastation effect it can have. Russia has capitalized on the idea of misleading news. They currently spend over $400,000 a year employing professional trolls who try and influence public opinion with comments and social media presence as well as spread false news to fit their preferred narrative.

Recently the impact of fake and false news has shown to be far more widespread and useful of a tool to influence people than previously thought. China on the other hand seems to focus more on governmental and business attacks. Nearly 70% of all intellectual stolen data is traced to China and they have infiltrated and stolen data from nearly all major defense contractors. Given these facts Russia and China are the two biggest threats in the future of cyber-warfare.