The Basics of Cyber Warfare And Cyber Attacks

Cyber warfare is the deployment of virus attacks or refusal assaults by a nation, country, or international entity to target and attempt to harm other country's systems or networking technologies.

A hand with thief gloves using a laptop.
Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya on Unsplash

RAND research advises the armed forces and civilian decision-makers on protecting a country's internet infrastructure from the destructive consequences of cyberwarfare and cyberwars.

Cyberwarfare – the Basics

Cyberwarfare refers to the international use of technical power within networked computers where information is stored, exchanged, or conveyed online. Cyberwar or cyber-attacks are very different from electronic warfare and information warfare. Cyberwarfare utilizes cyber attacks against a state that is the nemesis or arch-rival of another state. The motive behind any cyber attack is to harm or chart the state's computer system off-track.

Around the globe, several countries, including the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, Iran, Israel, and North Korea, possess the prerequisite capabilities and expertise to institute a cyber attack to ultimately instill unrest and lead to a cyberwar.

As governments investigate the use of cyber attacks and integrate resources, the risk of physical conflict and savagery occurring as a consequence of, or as a component of, a cyber operation grows. However, matching the magnitude and duration of war is doubtful; therefore, uncertainty persists.

Cyberwars Vs. Cyberwarfare

The terms "cyberwarfare" and "cyberwar" are not interchangeable. The phrase "cyberwarfare" does not imply the scope, duration, or ferocity that are generally linked with the term "war." Instead, cyberwarfare encompasses the strategies, methods, and processes used in a cyber battle. The term "war" intrinsically refers to a massive-scale activity that often takes place over an extended duration and may contain aims that involve the use of violence or the intent to kill.

A cyber war might correctly represent a lengthy duration of to-and-fro cyber attacks between warring governments (even in conjunction with regular military operations). But, so far, no such action has been reported. Instead, tit-for-tat military-cyber processes are becoming more frequent. In 2019, for example, the USA conducted a cyber-attack targeting Iranian military hardware in retribution for the downing of a US drone in the Straits of Hormuz.

Why Consider Cyber Warfare?

Nations conduct hostile cyber attacks for a myriad of purposes. However, Sandro Gaycken, a cybersecurity specialist and NATO consultant, believes that governments should take cyber warfare seriously since it is seen as an appealing pursuit by many countries in both times of peace and war.

Cyberwarfare operations provide a wide range of low-cost, danger-free possibilities for weakening other nations while strengthening one's own stance. Long-term, geostrategic cyber offensive operations can devastate global markets, modify political opinions, aggravate disputes within and amongst states, decrease armed services' efficiency, level the playing field of high-tech and low-tech countries, and use direct exposure to their infrastructure systems to entrap them.

The employment of cyber attacks, as articulated by the notion of cyber warfare, can be used in retaliation for cyberattacks. Furthermore, governments might deploy cyber penalties to respond to being the victim of cyber assaults. It is not always possible to identify the aggressor; nonetheless, accusations may be directed against a particular nation or set of countries. Rather than cyber warfare, unilateral and bilateral economic penalties might be utilized in certain instances.

However, not everyone who engages in cyberwarfare does so for monetary or political motives. Instead, institutions and corporations, such as the University of Cincinnati and the Kaspersky Security Lab, invest in cyber warfare to comprehend the sector through investigating and releasing new security risks.

Threats Associated With Cyberwarfare

Cyberwarfare may pose a variety of hazards to a country. Cyber attacks, in their essence, could be used to supplement conventional combat. For example, using cyber methodologies to interfere with air defense systems' functioning to aid an airstrike.

Aside from these "physical" dangers, cyber warfare may help with "softer" ones like intelligence and disinformation. For example, Eugene Kaspersky, the owner of Kaspersky Lab, compares powerful cyber weapons uncovered by his business, such as Flame and NetTraveler, to bioweapons, arguing that in an interdependent world, they can be similarly catastrophic.

Ending Note

Cyberwarfare is no joke, that's for sure. Nations adamant about devastating other countries or their economies due to substantial threats another nation might pose to their government, economy, and the entire system instigate cyberwarfare. But, instead of resorting to conventional wars encapsulating bloodshed and a loss of lives, cyber warfare through cyber attacks is the evolved form of invasion, bombardment, airstrikes, and military conflicts.