Cyber Warfare: The Threat Is Real

Introduction

Cyber threat occurs when a person tries to access a control system, device or network using prohibited communication pathways. This could be a person working from within an organization or from a remote location through the internet. These threats can come from different groups of people. These groups can include malicious people, hostile governments, disgruntled employees, hackers among others. The diminishing cost of networking and processing has encouraged network intrusions. A recent study by CERT/CC (Computer Emergency Response Team/Coordination Center) found out that cyber attacks have been increasing yearly despite protection measures that have been taken like protection by firewalls. These protection measures are vulnerable and imperfect. (US-CERT, 2005)

Discussion

Cyber attacks are potentially dangerous and can completely paralyze operations of governments and other organizations. Cyber threats have therefore been embedded into national policies and planning. The vulnerability of computer networks will spill to critical infrastructure under cyber threats endangering the national security of countries around the world. This paper outlines some of the deliberate threats posed by cyber warfare. (Moscaritolo, 2009)

One of the threats is those targeting national governments. These threats intend to harm objectives of governments undermining a country’s interests. They include propaganda, low level web page nuisance, espionage, serious disruptions and infrastructure devastation. Classified and critical networks are a difficult target from these attacks. So far it is only national governments that seem to have the ability and capacity to launch such kind of attacks. These attacks may be carried out against the United States government to weaken it, carry out espionage to steal technology, or weaken its ability to launch attacks during a military conflict. (Moscaritolo, 2009)

Threats can also come from terrorist groups. Traditional terrorist adversaries of the United Sates and its allies do not seem to have developed computer capabilities to launch cyber attacks. However, this could change in the near future since cyber network intrusion could enable them launch serious attacks against civilians. Their aim will always be to spread terror among the targeted populations. (Verton, 2003)

Profit based industrial and organized crime groups pose a medium level threat to the United States and the world. These have abilities to carry out industrial espionage and momentary theft. They can also employ and develop hackers. Their major goal is to make profits. They can attack the infrastructure of competitors, steal trade secrets, and blackmail affected companies threatening to make confidential information that they have accessed public. (Moscaritolo, 2009)

Although individuals are responsible for most incidents of computer network intrusion, they do not pose a long term and widespread threat to critical infrastructure. World wide hackers can however cause an isolated incident that could lead to great damage. Among this group include hackers that write programs for worms and viruses that infects systems. Their goal is to cause disruptions but not to access and penetrate infected systems. Ironically, hackers and researchers interact to exchange ideas and exchange common interests. Information gained from these interactions is used by researchers to build secure networks. (Cordesman, 2002)

For any economy to function properly, infrastructure is critical. Crippling infrastructure will cripple a county’s ability and capacity. Cyber warfare will not be the only time that a new technology has been used o attack infrastructure. Let me make a comparison of cyber warfare and air power in attacking infrastructure. During the First World War, European countries developed strategy against Germany where they air bombed Germany’s critical infrastructure behind German front lines to reduce Germany’s ability to launch attacks. The literature developed during this period in history concerning strategic bombing is similar to cyber warfare. During the Second World War, Britain and its allies launched offensive air attacks against German’s Infrastructure seeking to break the will of Germans to continue with the war. (CYBER SECURITY GATEWAY, n.d)

Although Germans were unable to prevent the eventual collapse of their economy, their defensive abilities and ingenuity was superb. They quickly rebuilt their military industries that had been bombed at a pace that surprised Britain and its allies. They did all they could to protect their economy; they showed that determined humans can stand under very difficult circumstances. Similar observations were made during the Vietnam War where aerial bombings hardened and encouraged support for resistance. An important lesson from these experiences concerning cyber warfare is that no single attack permanently put out an indispensable industry. That is the reason why continued re-attack was necessary. Cyber attacks would therefore need to continually exploit new vulnerabilities and tactics to ensure sustained disruptions. For example, once a hacker attacks and damaged a system, researchers normally respond quickly to close down the loophole that allowed the attack in the first place. (Cordesman, 2002)

One problem that has arisen from the possibility of cyber attacks is that routine failures are normally confused with cyber attacks. Goals to prevent disruptions of even a single day are a good example. This could include disruption of water services or electricity. However, weighed on the national security, these are less significant than real cyber attacks that could be launched against the country with great damages. These kinds of attacks would need to be carried out simultaneously on targeted areas over long periods of time to affect and cripple infrastructure. (Cordesman, 2002)

However, considering the arguments above, one mistake that many people make is that crippling or damaging infrastructure is the only way that cyber threats can cause potential damage. We all know that many organizations including our government have put up strong protective systems for their networks and the likelihood of their system failing is potentially low. However, these threats in themselves although short-lived could greatly harm civilians and the economy. Moreover, technology is also changing very fast and people are coming up with new methods of doing things. We cannot therefore rest in the assurance that our infrastructure is safe. (CYBER SECURITY GATEWAY, n.d)

While many people will dismiss the possibility of terrorist group working using cyber threats to launch attacks, the opposite could be true. Although they may not be endowed to carry out these kinds of attacks, they could simply use the Unites States recourses to accomplish their evil tasks. This may include paying civilians millions of dollars to penetrate intelligence. This happened when terrorists trained in the United States soil on how to fly planes and used the United States planes to launch terrorist attacks during the September 11th attacks. (Avlon, 2009)

Although the kinds of attacks described above cannot cause great damage to infrastructure, they can be potentially dangerous. For example, let’s consider an attack that has caused disruptions to water supply systems in the U.S. The problem will likely be solved in a few days if not hours. However, let’s imagine that there has also been a fire attack in a nearby city that draws its water supply from a dam that has been shut by a cyber attack. There is a potential of many casualties due to lack of water to put out the fire. These possibilities will definitely interest terrorist groups that would want to launch vicious attacks in the United States and other countries. The physical damage caused by cyber threats cannot therefore be ignored. (CYBER SECURITY GATEWAY, n.d)

What about the possibility of terrorist groups working with hackers to launch attacks. Although the danger posed by hackers themselves on infrastructure is minimal, we can only imagine the physical threat that they can cause by working with terrorist groups. For example, a terrorist attacker could access important defensive information from the government with the help of a hacker. This could enable him to launch attacks that may even include nuclear weapons with great confidence and accuracy. A young hacker who accessed Important NASA files only reminded us that the potential possibility of this arrangement is possible. (Cordesman, 2002)

The risks posed by cyber attacks on the economy are enormous. They pose a potential for increasing costs and financial theft. The most expensive natural disaster in the history of the United States, Hurricane Andrew caused a damage estimated at 25 billion dollars. On the other hand, the average cost per annum from tornadoes, hurricanes and the like in the U.S. is about eleven billion dollars. Compare this to the love bug virus that cost computer users around the world about 15 billion dollars. More dangerous, it is someone working individually and with no extensive resources that can cause this kind of damage. There is also the possibility of cyber crime affecting trading at major stock markets around the world. These kinds of attacks could be a useful tool for non global actors like Al-Qaeda that would not suffer from global economic consequences following these attacks. (Cordesman, 2002)

May countries are building defensive systems based on perceptions of Cyber attacks. Although it is debatable on how these attacks could affect counters, assumptions cannot be taken since no one knows how future wars will be fought. A good amount of resources are therefore being focused by governments on non contact cyber warfare. In the United Sates, Chinese hackers have been portrayed as very dangerous and even omnipotent by the media. Recently, the United States secretary of defense announced the creation of a Cyber Warfare Operations centre following an incident in the White House. This incidence was obviously exaggerated in order to give the government a lee way to strengthen its network. Although the Chinese government could not be posing such king of threat at the moment considering that its economy is largely dependant on the United States economy, it may be necessary to take these precaution measures. (CYBER SECURITY GATEWAY, n.d)

Cyber threats have forced organizations and governments to come up with measures including implementing systems that are more secure from attacks. In traditional protection methods, threat signatures are detected. These signatures are provided by network professionals. The signature database needs to be updated frequently since new threats will continue to be created. The main disadvantage of this method is that it cannot be used to detect emerging threats. A new method using intrusion techniques based upon data mining has been developed. This method searches for structures, models and patterns of data to detect threats. (Avlon, 2009)

Billions of money is spent annually on efforts by governments and organizations to protect their networks and systems. This is a cyber threat by itself. Cyber threat is therefore drawing huge amounts of resources from the exchequers that could be channeled to other development activities. This could pose a threat for many nations. This trend will increase in the near future with advancing technology that will even require governments to inject resources into protective systems. We may not tell the level up to which this behavior could limit the financial capacity of governments, business and other organizations limiting their capacity and affecting the economy. (CYBER SECURITY GATEWAY, n.d)

Research on protection methods is ongoing to come up with a more reliable form of protection. Data mining method described above is limited by the fact that generated data from networks is normally of very high volume making the process of serial data mining difficult. Moreover attacks can be launched from different locations targeting various destinations making it necessary to analyze data from various networks in order to detect these distributed attacks. (Avlon, 2009)

Research on protections mechanisms for networks could not be ongoing without the possibility of a real threat caused by cyber attacks. According to a CIA report, Cyber threat is real and the U.S government should take all measures necessary to prevent Undesirable possibilities that could arise from cyber threats. While everyone knows that no one who depends on a network can survive without putting up protection measures, people and companies have built careers from cyber threats. Some of the most profitable companies are companies that provide advice, consulting and other services on cyber warfare. (CYBER SECURITY GATEWAY, n.d)

It is a warfare that has extended and continues to extend worldwide including in developing countries. In developing countries, organizations and governments do not have resources to handle cyber crime efficiently. This is despite the fact that with the spread of technology including their joining of global network through the fast and reliable optical fiber network. Interestingly however, governments in these countries do not consider themselves to be under considerable cyber threats. Maybe scarcity of recourses has more than anything else led to this scenario. (Cordesman, 2002)

An invaluable scenario can however be learnt from this arrangement which shows that national cyber threat is very real. The perceived low economical significance and influence of these countries on the global scene could have discouraged national cyber threat more than anything else. I believe that this is changing with more competition for resources and partners from developed countries hence developing countries will therefore soon experience national cyber threats. This confirms that national cyber threat is alive and existing among nations in the world. (Avlon, 2009)

The global arena is obviously set for a precedent increase in cyber warfare. Cyber threats will therefore keep increasing day by day. A number of factors are leading to this kind of arrangement. First of all, by trying to fight cyber crime and protect their systems, governments and organizations are involving more people. These people continue to build their skills and capabilities in information and communication which they could use for the wrong purposes like launching attacks. Moreover, they are also in a capacity to pass on these skills. (CYBER SECURITY GATEWAY, n.d)

Information and technology is becoming cheaper and easily accessible by day. Individuals can therefore access resources including training that could enhance their capabilities in information and communication systems. The skills and abilities obtained in this manner can be used to launch cyber threats. Besides, there is a possibility of the emergence of global hackers that work together and exchange ideas through a network that is supported by the internet. This could create unimaginable harm to networks and systems. (Avlon, 2009)

The expanding internet platform is presenting interesting opportunities and careers for people around the world. Although this platform of communication has been in existence for just a few years, it has obviously already built the largest number of professionals around the world. We can therefore see that an even greater number of people will built their careers around networking and the computer. This can only tell us that the number of hackers and the like around the world may increase exponentially in the near future. Cyber warfare will therefore at least continue to be a part of our lives if not controlling our lives. (Cordesman, 2002)

On the global scene, many countries are developing fast and their economies are expanding. Competition for global resources is therefore set to increase. It is becoming obvious for these countries that they need to invest heavily on networking technology to protect their interests. It is claimed that some small countries have a greater capacity to launch cyber attacks compared to developed countries. For example, this relates to China and the United states. China is seen as the country that can pose the greatest national cyber threat to the United States. India is one country that has produced the greatest computer experts in the world. The stage is therefore set where countries will use cyber warfare on a high scale level to carry out espionage or even infrastructure attacks that could cripple government operations. What about terrorist groups infiltrating cyber networks to launch attacks. They will obviously be enticed by the capacity of cyber warfare to launch the most devastating attacks against their enemies. (Avlon, 2009)

We can say with great amount of precision and confidence that people’s lives in the near future will be more centered around the computer including networks on a level that we may not perceive now. Since the invention of the microchip computer, people’s lives are increasingly dependant on this device and its networks. Networks and computer systems are therefore becoming a great resource and asset. There is no time in Human history where people have not tried to steal and or damage valuable resources. This also explains why cyber warfare is real today and can only increase tomorrow under any given circumstance. (CYBER SECURITY GATEWAY, n.d)

Conclusion

Everyone who has considerable knowledge of computers and the resulting networks will readily agree to the fact that cyber warfare is real. Those who argue against reality are actually confusing between cyber threats and their potential to devastate major infrastructure systems in countries. Ironically, as much as computer networking is a new phenomenon, we can already see and have even tasted the capacity of cyber threats top harm infrastructure. On the other hand, cyber threats have caused disruptions that have produced undesirable results.

We therefore need to develop policies that will ensure that we have the necessary capacity and resources to deal with these cyber threats when they occur. As discussed above, a careful observation at the global trend will show that we are heading towards cyber warfare. Future wars may even be fought using cyber warfare and space satellites on a larger scale than direct contact. It is only logical that as much as networks have enabled us to do some achievements that we never imagined we could achieve before, we should recognize their great worth. We should then protect this treasure by all means against our enemies that may attack us through cyber warfare.

References List

Avlon, P.J. (2009).The Growing Cyberthreat. Web.

Cordesman, G.J. (Ed.). (2002). Cyber-threats, information warfare, and critical infrastructure protection: defending the U.S. homeland. Greenwood Publishing Group. Print.

CYBER SECURITY GATEWAY. (n.d). International Multilateral partnership Against Cyberthreat. Web.

Moscaritolo, A. (2009). Call for a global cyber threat solutions. Web.

Verton, D. (Ed.). (2003). Black ice: the invisible threat of cyber-terrorism. McGraw-Hill Professional. Print.

US-CERT. (2005).Cyber Threat Source Pescriptions. Web.

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