Definition of Cyber War

Cyber warfare is the use of digital means to attack a nation, disrupting the vital computer systems. These attacks can range from annoyances to complete system shutdowns, with differing financial implications and human suffering.

This type of warfare usually involves computer viruses and/or hacking. It can have disastrous effects, comparable to physical warfare.

Potentially it causes even more harm. Think cooling systems of nuclear power plants, the water supply, or logistic systems that control air traffic. 2021 Texas Power Crisis demonstrated how dependent we are on such systems – this power outing wasn’t even a targeted cyber attack by a foreign adversary or terrorist organization.

Cyber attacks therefore deserve at the very least as much attention as more traditional threats.

Individuals can wield these weapons.

Individuals can wield these weapons.

WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM REPORT

The World Economic forum is quite clear about the dangers presented by such disruptive attacks on vital computer systems.

Why we need to measure military cyber power

“A worrying indicator is the barrage of cyber attacks to which Ukraine has been subjected since 2014, giving rise to suspicions that Russia is using Ukraine as a test-bed for disruptive attacks of ever greater sophistication, such as CrashOverride, an autonomous exploit designed to enable the remote closing down of electricity-generation systems.

Physical damage arising from activities initiated in the cyber domain is already a reality. Fatalities, at the very least as a second-order consequence of persistent and large-scale digital disruption, may not be far behind.”

CYBER WARFARE AND THE LAW

In the battle for global dominance, cyberwars will define many of the global conflicts of the future. They are already shaping our present more than we know, hidden in the occasional news items like the one about poisoned water systems (such as the 2021 cyberbreach of a Florida water treatment plant).

The gloves are off, with hardly any rules of engagement, as traditional war rules don’t really apply to such conflicts. They were not made with cyberwar in mind.

CYBER WAR AND HYPER WAR: the difference

Cyber wars are different from hyperwars, where intelligent AI systems compete with each other.

Examples cyber attacks

CrashOverride

Russian hackers struck an electric transmission station north of the city of Kiev, blacking out a portion of the Ukrainian capital equivalent to a fifth of its total power capacity. The attack is generally seen as a test case.