Cyber Warfare


Throughout history, mankind has waged war, seeking to further national agendas in an ever changing international game of power. From the sword battles of the past to the unmanned drone strikes of today, this game of power is constantly driven to shift and evolve by technology. The development of armoured vehicles, aircraft, ships and the use of electronics and telecommunications have all expanded the battle space and introduced new and innovative ways to gain an advantage over opponents. Just as the technological innovation of flight triggered a race to dominate the skies, the emergence of cyberspace has opened up new strategic possibilities and threats, causing a scramble to securea dominant position inside of it. Increasing media coverage of cyber warfare has only served to heighten public awareness that cyberspace is becoming an arena of warfare. Governments, too, are fully aware of the need to take action in response to threats from cyberspace. Former US President Barack Obama  declared America’s digital infrastructure a strategic national asset, and formed Cybercom: a division inside the Pentagon whose stated task is to “perform full spectrum operations”. Documents leaked from the National Security Agency in the US also confirm that national security figures are seeking to establish offensive cyber capability. In the UK, government officials  warned of a lack of preparedness for cyber warfare and  announced new investments to bolster defence, such as the National Cyber Security Programme. NATO has also been raising awareness, releasing the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare as an attempt to advise nations on how to operate legally in this new war fighting domain. Looking at this evidence, it is clear that cyber warfare is a topic of global concern. Conflict and war in any form has the potential to touch every person, whether as a combatant, relative of a combatant, civilian, business entity or nation state. When a new domain of war arises, there is an immediate challenge in determining how to operate inside of it effectively. The arrival of air as a domain of war was met with research on how its properties could be leveraged to most effectively fight in it. The same process applies to the arrival of the cyber domain. There are eight new principles that are suggested by a few scholars including lack of physical limitations, kinetic effects, stealth, mutability and inconsistency, identity and privileges, dual use, infrastructure control and information as operational environment. In kinetic warfare, navies must travel across oceans, and ground troops must navigate terrain. This does not apply to cyber warfare and an attack can be launched from anywhere with equal impact. The aim of cyber warfare is to cause kinetic effects. This includes physical damage or simply affecting the decision making process of an adversary. Any attack which has no real world effect cannot be considered as cyber warfare. Stealth in cyber warfare is different to stealth in kinetic warfare. Whilst camouflage and anti-radar shielding make up traditional stealth, cyber stealth is focused on hiding amongst legitimate traffic.  The principle of mutability and inconsistency reflects Parks and Duggan’s view that the cyber domain is unpredictable. While a bullet will fly a certain path in reality, a cyber attack may never act the same way twice due to all the software and hardware factors involved. The primary goal of a cyber attacker is to assume the identity of someone who has the access required to cause harm. All cyber warfare tools are dual use, having both warfare and peaceful uses. This is unlike kinetic warfare, whereby the tools are generally single use. This principle has both strengths and weaknesses. Infrastructure control is significant part of cyber warfare. Last but not the least, In kinetic warfare the physical operating environment needs to be transformed into information. In cyber warfare the operating environment is already information, and no conversion from physical measurements to information takes place.

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