Cyber Attacks – An Evolving Threat in War
The world has yet to be subjected to the horrifying consequences of a targeted nuclear attack – and thankfully so. But this doesn’t mean that, just because they aren’t as easy to see as a mushroom cloud in the sky, there aren’t attacks that can cause carnage to the world at work as we speak.
Thankfully, the era of nuclear testing and a severe nuclear threat seems to be a thing of the past. However, the cyberwarfare age has begun; it has the power to debilitate whole economies and – like a nuclear strike – send millions into abject poverty. Russia is using its war on Ukraine as a sort of testing ground for its cyber weapons.
Online attacks – unlike a nuclear strike – can be hard to notice, in the wake of a bomb there is an explosion and visible carnage and disarray, but with a cyber attack there is no reaction as no one even knows what has just happened, let alone the magnitude of it.
Cyber attacks offer an opportunity for countries wishing to use them in their war strategy – because attacks can be mounted from any unwitting host, meaning that plausible deniability is possible. The attacker could do this by taking over partial control of a home device or computer without you knowing, which they can then use to facilitate their attacks.
Russia is attempting to use these methods – amongst others – to commit a string of attacks on Ukraine and its infrastructure. It is highly likely – in fact, probable – that Russia have been ‘practicing’ on Ukraine for quite some time. ‘Practicing’, I hear you say, ‘What are they practicing for?’ Well, the country’s infrastructure is very similar to that of Western European nations and even of North America, but – unlike the UK and most EU countries – Ukraine simply doesn’t have the resources to counter an attack of such scale.
Russia increased their cyber attacks on the country massively in the lead up to their invasion – hours before they sent troops over the border, Ukraine was hit by a very sophisticated form of Malware. The attack was conducted in an attempt to wipe data and cause mass panic amongst the people of Ukraine and – more crucially at the time – its government. The Ukrainian government were shocked at the sophistication of the attack and were simply not equipped to fight back at the time.
On a more global scale, cyber attacks can cause severe problems – governments and corporations alike should take the devastation caused by the war in Ukraine as a warning, because cyberwar is the new way of war, and we need to be ready for it when it comes.
What would a global cyberwar look like for us?
The scope of a cyberwar could be global – theoretically, a country could attack every other country in the world simultaneously. But this is highly unlikely, because attacking every country in the world would be like having a fight with 100 people at once – you may be bigger, faster, and stronger than them but – with their combined forces – you are likely to lose. More likely is the probability of a ‘spill over effect’ – a spill over effect is when an attack targeted at a piece of infrastructure spills over to other associated infrastructure, often in other countries.
Luckily, to date, cyber attacks haven’t been as devastating as they have the power to be. This could be because the attacker doesn’t know the power of the ‘weapon’ they have in their grasp, but more likely is that these attacks were tests to discover parts of the attacks’ abilities before undertaking the true attack.
If cyber attacks become as sophisticated as they can be they would have the power to shut down electric grids, or even cause them to explode – resulting in damage that could take weeks or months to repair, potentially leaving residents without power for quite some time.
In answer to the question, ‘What would a global cyberwar look like for us?’ we would state that an attack, given the interdependence of all technology in critical national infrastructure – coupled with the international economic dependence on it – could mean the end of entire sectors of business, and, if sophisticated enough, the end of life as we know it.
Having said that, it isn’t the end of the story, as there are some things that you can do to protect your systems from the effects of a cyber attack. We will explore these further in our next article and hopefully give you some peace of mind that – if everyone works toward the same goal – we can all be prepared for a nationwide cyber attack.
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