Using the Internet to attack governments, military infrastructures, communications systems, and financial markets is no longer only something that you hear or see in science fiction movies.With the widespread use of technology like cell phones, power plants, military communication, etc. that all rely on Internet functionality, experts say that this creates a much higher chance of incurring a cyber attack by a terrorist organizations or foreign entity.
Another issue with using the Internet to launch cyber attacks is that they can be masked or hidden so that the victim won’t know what hit them. An example of this is the recent attack on Gmail in China. Google knew that they were hit and were even able to trace the attack back to China, but then the trail stopped cold. Google had no proof of who exactly was responsible for the attack.
This approach can also be taken by other hostile states that would do more then just attack email accounts, they can cause mass chaos by shutting down or even destroying a lot of our technology, and we wouldn’t even know what happened or how to respond.
“Cyber warfare [may be used] to disable a country’s infrastructure, meddle with the integrity of another country’s internal military data, try to confuse its financial transactions or to accomplish any number of other possibly crippling aims,” says International Institute for Strategic Studies director-general John Chipman.
Cyber warfare and spying has already begun in some states. For example, in December the South Korean government reported an attack in which it said North Korean hackers may have stolen secret defense plans outlining the South Korean and US strategy in the event of war on the Korean peninsula. Last July, espionage protection agents in Germany said the country faced “extremely sophisticated” Chinese and Russian Internet spying operations targeting industrial secrets and critical infrastructure such as Germany’s power grid. One of the most notorious cyber attacks to date took place in Estonia in 2007 when more than 1 million computers were used to jam government, business and media websites. The attacks, widely believed to have originated in Russia, inflicted damage estimated in the tens of millions of euros of damage.
As of right now, we don’t know much about cyber warfare or how we will deal with it as a nation, but thankfully our defensive measures have already begun. Last June the Pentagon created US Cyber Command which will be our “Cyber” version of the Department of Defense which should soon create some powerful defensive and offensive “cyber-weapons.”