‘The boundaries are blurred’ a sentence which is often mentioned when talking about the Internet, especially talking about cyber warfare and related issues. The issue of cyber warfare could be really easy: state agencies conducting electronic attacks against other state agencies from a different state. This definition however, would be odd. Let us have a short look at the history of military. It is really brief, and if my former strategy and security lecturer might read this: forgive me for being unprecise and too brief (and adapting an European centered perspective..).
Let us start with the ancient Greek and roman empire. The armies in this times were formed mainly by soldiers and slaves which were made soldiers after the defeat of rivals. In the Roman Empire for example it was part of the tribute the defeated foe had to contribute. So far so good. In the medieval times, it was the kings who made their landlords tributing soldiers apart from the usual stuff like food and resources. So kingdoms fought against each other relying on the subsidiarity of their respective landlords. Later on, mercenaries were big in business (especially the German and Swiss mercenaries). Powerful lords or whatever could hire these mercenaries to fight for them or, if the adversary paid more money, to ruin them. However, the perspective shifted with the upraising of the nation-state. Due to the fact that mercenaries were not reliable enough, standing armies were formed to fight against each other. In the past few years however, a mixture between standing armies and mercenaries has been formed. Mercenaries are used for risky actions when there is no public demand to cry in front of flag-covered coffins. All these forms have one thing in common: basically individuals are paid to fight for one ruler against the army of another ruler. What does it have to do with cyberwarfare? Cyberwarfare is not that black and white. More actors are involved. Apart from state-against-state cyberattacks let us skim through the news of the past days…
9th February: a new Russian botnet (Spy Eye) kills the botnet of another rival (Kill Zeus) in order to get full grip on the computers it is spreading to. Two criminal private businesses conduct cyberwarfare against each other for the sake of money and power.
16th February: activists group applies DdoS attacks against Australian official websites to shut them down. Private group against State Authority.
16th February: Cyber ShockWave. US attacked itself in a war game, assuming that the source of the attack is based in Russia and conducted by an individual in Sudan. Individual against State Authority.
19th February: Chinese students might have conducted the attack against Google, some weeks ago. Individuals against businesses.
25th February: Chinese government might have supported cyberattacks conducted against Google. State Authority against Business.
There are some more constellations of different actors waging a somehow altered cyber war against each other, such as for example State Authorities against their own people while hacking into their private computers. As the last sentence suggests I would subsume everything under the bigger term ‘cyber warfare’ but there are more suitable terms for these different ways of conduct it, such as media warfare, hacking, cyber terrorism or even tyranny. Additionally, cyber attacks are difficult to trace which means that the real actors or source behind an attack might never be discovered.
Keep your data safe and your networks dedicated…