Our modern world depends on computers now more than ever. While computer technology is helping to evolve our civilization, it is accompanied by certain risks. Cyber warfare, often politically-motivated, is being used by governments around the world both to spy on each other and to sabotage national infrastructures. Here are five real life cases of cyber warfare.
In 2009, U.S. intelligence reported that hackers of both the Russian and Chinese governments had infiltrated electric power grid computer systems. The report stated that they hid software programs within the computer systems so that the entire U.S. power grid could be disabled if needed. Although China has denied the intrusion, it has revealed the extreme vulnerability of our computer-based smart grid. Hacker-induced power outages could cause nationwide panic, massive economic disruption and even distract defenses from a military attack. Measures are being taken to protect the power grid’s cyber security.
The Industrial De-Revolution
In developed countries, assembly line factories are dependent on computer technology systems. Before computers, factories were considered prime bombing targets during war. This can disrupt the supply flow of military vehicles and weaponry, and it can also cause food shortages for the entire population. These days, a well-placed computer virus is almost as harmful. In July of 2010, malicious software was found in the computer systems of various U.S. factories. This is considered one of the first cyber warfare attacks on the industrial infrastructure of the country. Prolonged disruption of these factories can mean widespread economic problems both domestically and globally.
The United States military understands the importance of a strong and proactive cyber warfare strategy. Government officials have already stated that the military has trained computer professionals that are involved with national cyber defense. There have even been reports that the U.S. has already attacked the computer systems of other countries that are considered dangerous. It is known that military-trained hackers were used to block millions of dollars worth of Al Qaeda funding. These hackers also provided intelligence that was used to track down known Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists. The U.S. knows that cyber warfare is an important aspect in their global War on Terror.
Ghosts in the Machine
In 2009, researchers discovered a massive amount of spy software hidden within computer networks around the world. The spying operation has been named GhostNet and seems to be originating from China, even though there is no direct evidence that the Chinese government has anything to do with it. This is the first documented case of cyber warfare espionage on a global scale. One of the main objectives of the GhostNet software is to read secure email between politicians and military personnel from countries around the world.
They Are Everyone and They Are No One
Cyber Warfare is not limited between nations. Anonymous is the name of a massive, underground hacker activism collective. To protect the identity of its members, they do not have individual nicknames, but all act under the same alias: Anonymous. The group focuses mostly on their goals involving freedom of information and is also known for contributing a lot of secret government information to the famous Wikileaks website. They have contributed to denial of service attacks on various sites that they collectively agree are either immoral or hiding information that the public has a right to view. Their motto is, “We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”
In this age of increased information technology being used by nations, cyber warfare is becoming quite common. Both national defensive and offensive strategy will depend on strong cyber warfare divisions.
Dustin Landers is a software developer and guest author at BestComputerScienceDegrees.com, a site with guides to online computer science degrees.