History has witnessed many famous wars- World War I and II, the cold war following it etc. However, in this era of digitalization, one needs to be aware of “digital wars” or “cyber warfare”. Broadly, cyber warfare is computer- or network-based conflict involving politically motivated attacks by a nation-state on another nation-state. In these types of attacks, nation-state actors attempt to disrupt the activities of organizations or nation-states, especially for strategic or military purposes and cyber espionage. Although cyber-warfare generally refers to cyber-attacks perpetrated by one nation-state on another, it can also describe attacks by terrorist groups or hacker groups aimed at furthering the goals of particular nations. It can be difficult to definitively attribute cyber-attacks to a nation-state when those attacks are carried out by advanced persistent threat (APT) actors, but such attacks can often be linked to specific nations. While there are a number of examples of suspect cyber-warfare attacks in recent history, there has been no formal, agreed- upon definition for a cyber act of war, which experts generally agree would be a cyber-attack that directly leads to loss of life. Cyber-warfare can take many forms, including:
♦ viruses, computer worms and malware: that can take down water supplies, transportation systems, power grids, critical infrastructure and military systems;
♦ denial-of-service (DoS) attacks: cybersecurity events that occur when attackers take action that prevents legitimate users from accessing targeted computer systems, devices or other network resources;
♦ hacking and theft of critical data: from institutions, governments and business.
♦ ransom ware: that holds computer systems hostage until the victims pay ransom.
Objectives of cyber warfare:
According to Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the goal of nation – states or hackers belonging to said nation- states could resort to cyber warfare for:
i. Espionage for technology advancement. For example, China’s cyber security law mandates that foreign companies submit their technology to the Chinese government for review. Russia, too has increased its demand of source code reviews to approve of foreign technologies sold in their country.
ii. Disruption of infrastructure to attack the other nation’s economy. For example, by controlling a routers, sensors or controllers in a critical sector, such as the energy sector, an enemy can attempt to destroy or badly damage energy plants or the grid itself.
iii. Cyber -attacks could also be used to sow discord to destabilize government of the target nation.
Why are governments investing in cyber-warfare right now?
Governments are increasingly aware that modern societies are so reliant on computer systems to run everything from financial services to transport networks that using hackers armed with viruses or other tools to shut down those systems could be just as effective and damaging as traditional military campaign using troops armed with guns and missiles. Unlike traditional military attacks, a cyber-attack can be launched instantaneously from any distance, with little obvious evidence of any build-up, unlike a traditional military operation. Such an attack would be extremely hard to trace back with any certainty to its perpetrators, making retaliation harder. As a result governments and intelligence agencies worry that digital attacks against vital infrastructure like banking systems or power grids — will give attackers a way of bypassing a country's traditional defences, and are racing to improve their computer security.
Which countries are preparing for cyber war?
Pretty much every single nation with the money and the skills is investing in cyber-warfare and cyber defense capabilities. According to US intelligence chiefs, more than 30 countries are developing offensive cyber-attack capabilities, although in secrecy. This has lead to concerns that a secret cyber arms race has already begun. US intelligence briefings regularly list Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea as the major cyber threat actors to worry about. The US has long warned that Russia has a highly advanced offensive cyber program and has conducted damaging and/or disruptive cyber- attacks, including attacks on critical infrastructure networks. As far as India is concerned, the defense ministry recently announced that it will be setting up two units to handle space and cyber-warfare. These units demonstrate that India too, is evolving structures to counter new- age threats. The cyber-warfare center will be aiming to sharpen India’s offensive capacities, while the space warfare center will be looking at protecting India’s space assets including military satellites.
Article By- Shrawani Mohani
Editing By- Jasleen Kaur