Cyberwarfare has been defined by government security expert Richard A. Clarke, in his book Cyber War (May 2010), as “actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation’s computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption.”:6 The Economist describes cyber warfare as “the fifth domain of warfare,” and William J. Lynn, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, states that “as a doctrinal matter, the Pentagon has formally recognized cyberspace as a new domain in warfare . . . [which] has become just as critical to military operations as land, sea, air, and space.”
In 2009, President Barack Obama declared America’s digital infrastructure to be a “strategic national asset,” and in May 2010 the Pentagon set up its new U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), headed by General Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency (NSA), to defend American military networks and attack other countries’ systems. The United Kingdom has also set up a cyber-security and “operations centre” based in Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British equivalent of the NSA. In the U.S. however, Cyber Command is only set up to protect the military, whereas the government and corporate infrastructures are primarily the responsibility respectively of the Department of Homeland Security and private companies.
In February 2010, top American lawmakers warned that the “threat of a crippling attack on telecommunications and computer networks was sharply on the rise.” According to The Lipman Report, numerous key sectors of the U.S. economy along with that of other nations, are currently at risk, including cyber threats to public and private facilities, banking and finance, transportation, manufacturing, medical, education and government, all of which are now dependent on computers for daily operations.
The Economist writes that China has plans of “winning informationised wars by the mid-21st century”. They note that other countries are likewise organizing for cyberwar, among them Russia, Israel and North Korea. Iran boasts of having the world’s second-largest cyber-army.
James Gosler, a government cybersecurity specialist, worries that the U.S. has a severe shortage of computer security specialists, estimating that there are only about 1,000 qualified people in the country today, but needs a force of 20,000 to 30,000 skilled experts.
At the July 2010 Black Hat computer security conference, Michael Hayden, former deputy director of national intelligence, challenged thousands of attendees to help devise ways to “reshape the Internet’s security architecture, explaining, “You guys made the cyberworld look like the north German plain.”
Espionage and national security breaches
Cyber espionage is the act or practice of obtaining secrets (sensitive, proprietary or classified information) from individuals, competitors, rivals, groups, governments and enemies also for military, political, or economic advantage using illegal exploitation methods on internet, networks, software and or computers. Classified information that is not handled securely can be intercepted and even modified, making espionage possible from the other side of the world. See Titan Rain and Moonlight Maze. General Alexander notes that the recently established Cyber Command is currently trying to determine whether such activities as commercial espionage or theft of intellectual property are criminal activities or actual “breaches of national security.”
Military activities that use computers and satellites for coordination are at risk of equipment disruption. Orders and communications can be intercepted or replaced. Power, water, fuel, communications, and transportation infrastructure all may be vulnerable to disruption. According to Clarke, the civilian realm is also at risk, noting that the security breaches have already gone beyond stolen credit card numbers, and that potential targets can also include the electric power grid, trains, or the stock market.
In mid July 2010, security experts discovered a malicious software program that had infiltrated factory computers and had spread to plants around the world. It is considered “the first attack on critical industrial infrastructure that sits at the foundation of modern economies,” notes the New York Times.
Electrical power grid
The federal government of the United States admits that the electric power transmission is susceptible to cyberwarfare. The United States Department of Homeland Security works with industry to identify vulnerabilities and to help industry enhance the security of control system networks, the federal government is also working to ensure that security is built in as the next generation of “smart grid” networks are developed. In April 2009, reports surfaced that China and Russia had infiltrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national security officials. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) has issued a public notice that warns that the electrical grid is not adequately protected from cyber attack. China denies intruding into the U.S. electrical grid. One countermeasure would be to disconnect the power grid from the Internet and run the net with droop speed control only. Massive power outages caused by a cyber attack, could disrupt the economy, distract from a simultaneous military attack, or create a national trauma.
It’s possible that hackers have gotten into administrative computer systems of utility companies, but says those aren’t linked to the equipment controlling the grid, at least not in developed countries. [Shmidt] has never heard that the grid itself has been hacked.
In the U.S., General Keith B. Alexander, first head of the recently formed USCYBERCOM, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that computer network warfare is evolving so rapidly that there is a “mismatch between our technical capabilities to conduct operations and the governing laws and policies.” Cyber Command is the newest global combatant and its sole mission is cyberspace, outside the traditional battlefields of land, sea, air and space.” It will attempt to find and, when necessary, neutralize cyberattacks and to defend military computer networks.
Alexander sketched out the broad battlefield envisioned for the computer warfare command, listing the kind of targets that his new headquarters could be ordered to attack, including “traditional battlefield prizes – command-and-control systems at military headquarters, air defense networks and weapons systems that require computers to operate.”
One cyber warfare scenario, Cyber ShockWave, which was wargamed on the cabinet level by former administration officials, raised issues ranging from the National Guard to the power grid to the limits of statutory authority.
The distributed nature of internet based attacks means that it is difficult to determine motivation and attacking party, meaning that it is unclear when a specific act should be considered an act of war.
Potential targets in internet sabotage include all aspects of the Internet from the backbones of the web, to the Internet Service Providers, to the varying types of data communication mediums and network equipment. This would include: web servers, enterprise information systems, client server systems, communication links, network equipment, and the desktops and laptops in businesses and homes. Electrical grids and telecommunication systems are also deemed vulnerable, especially due to current trends in automation.
Computer hacking represents a modern threat in ongoing industrial espionage and as such is presumed to widely occur. It is typical that this type of crime is underreported. According to McAfee’s George Kurtz, corporations around the world face millions of cyberattacks a day. “Most of these attacks don’t gain any media attention or lead to strong political statements by victims.” This type of crime is usually financially motivated.
Reaction by government agencies
In August 2010, the U.S. for the first time is publicly warning about the Chinese military’s use of civilian computer experts in clandestine cyber attacks aimed at American companies and government agencies. The Pentagon also pointed to an alleged China-based computer spying network dubbed GhostNet that was revealed in a research report last year. The Pentagon stated:
- “The People’s Liberation Army is using “information warfare units” to develop viruses to attack enemy computer systems and networks, and those units include civilian computer professionals. Commander Bob Mehal, will monitor the PLA’s buildup of its cyberwarfare capabilities and will continue to develop capabilities to counter any potential threat.”
The United States Department of Defense sees the use of computers and the Internet to conduct warfare in cyberspace as a threat to national security. One U.S. agency, the Joint Forces Command, describes some of its attributes:
- Cyberspace technology is emerging as an “instrument of power” in societies, and is becoming more available to a country’s opponents, who may use it to attack, degrade, and disrupt communications and the flow of information. With low barriers to entry, coupled with the anonymous nature of activities in cyberspace, the list of potential adversaries is broad. Furthermore, the globe-spanning range of cyberspace and its disregard for national borders will challenge legal systems and complicate a nation’s ability to deter threats and respond to contingencies.
- With very little investment, and cloaked in a veil of anonymity, our adversaries will inevitably attempt to harm our national interests. Cyberspace will become a main front in both irregular and traditional conflicts. Enemies in cyberspace will include both states and non-states and will range from the unsophisticated amateur to highly trained professional hackers. Through cyberspace, enemies will target industry, academia, government, as well as the military in the air, land, maritime, and space domains. In much the same way that airpower transformed the battlefield of World War II, cyberspace has fractured the physical barriers that shield a nation from attacks on its commerce and communication. Indeed, adversaries have already taken advantage of computer networks and the power of information technology not only to plan and execute savage acts of terrorism, but also to influence directly the perceptions and will of the U.S. Government and the American population.
Not all responses have been defensive in nature. The Internet security company McAfee stated in their 2007 annual report that approximately 120 countries have been developing ways to use the Internet as a weapon and target financial markets, government computer systems and utilities.
Cyberwarfare limitation treaty
Cyberwarfare by country
Cyberwarfare in the United States
American “Kill switch bill“
On June 19, 2010, United States Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) introduced a bill called “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010”, which he co-wrote with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE). If signed into law, this controversial bill, which the American media dubbed the “Kill switch bill“, would grant the President emergency powers over parts of the Internet. However, all three co-authors of the bill issued a statement that instead, the bill “[narrowed] existing broad Presidential authority to take over telecommunications networks”.
Cyberwarfare in China
Cyberwarfare in Russia
Cyber counter-intelligence are measures to identify, penetrate, or neutralize foreign operations that use cyber means as the primary tradecraft methodology, as well as foreign intelligence service collection efforts that use traditional methods to gauge cyber capabilities and intentions.
- On April 7, 2009, The Pentagon announced they spent more than $100 million in the last six months responding to and repairing damage from cyber attacks and other computer network problems.
- On April 1, 2009, U.S. lawmakers pushed for the appointment of a White House cyber security “czar” to dramatically escalate U.S. defenses against cyber attacks, crafting proposals that would empower the government to set and enforce security standards for private industry for the first time.
- On February 9, 2009, the White House announced that it will conduct a review of the nation’s cyber security to ensure that the Federal government of the United States cyber security initiatives are appropriately integrated, resourced and coordinated with the United States Congress and the private sector.
- In the wake of the cyberwar of 2007 waged against Estonia, NATO established the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCD CoE) in Tallinn, Estonia, in order to enhance the organization’s cyber defence capability. The center was formally established on the 14th of May, 2008, and it received full accreditation by NATO and attained the status of International Military Organization on the 28th of October, 2008. Since Estonia has led international efforts to fight cybercrime, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation says it will permanently base a computer crime expert in Estonia in 2009 to help fight international threats against computer systems.
Controversy over terms
There is debate on whether the term “cyberwarfare” is accurate, with some experts stating that “there is no cyberwar,” and that the word is “a terrible metaphor.” Other experts, however, believe that this type of activity already constitutes a war. The warfare analogy is often seen intended to motivate a militaristic response when that is not necessarily appropriate.
Various case histories
- In 1982, a computer control system stolen from a Canadian company by Soviet spies caused a Soviet gas pipeline to explode. The code for the control system had been modified by the CIA to include a logic bomb which changed the pump speeds to cause the explosion.
- In 1991, it was reported by the US Air Force that a computer virus named AF/91 was created and was installed on a printer chip and made its way to Iraq via Amman, Jordan. Its job was to make the Iraqi anti-aircraft guns malfunction; however, according to the story, the central command center was bombed and the virus was destroyed. The virus, however, was found to be a fake.
- The United States has been attacked from computers and computer networks situated in China and Russia. See Titan Rain and Moonlight Maze.
- In the 2006 war against Hezbollah, Israel alleges that cyber-warfare was part of the conflict, where the Israel Defense Force (IDF) intelligence estimates several countries in the Middle East used Russian hackers and scientists to operate on their behalf. As a result, Israel attached growing importance to cyber-tactics, and became, along with the U.S., France and a couple of other nations, involved in cyber-war planning. Many international high-tech companies are now locating research and development operations in Israel, where local hires are often veterans of the IDF’s elite computer units. Richard A. Clarke adds that “our Israeli friends have learned a thing or two from the programs we have been working on for more than two decades.”:8
- In 2007, McAfee, Inc. alleged that China was actively involved in “cyberwar.” China was accused of cyber-attacks on India, Germany, and the United States, although they denied knowledge of these attacks. China has the highest number of computers vulnerable to be controlled, owing at least partially to the large population.
- In April 2007, Estonia came under cyber attack in the wake of relocation of the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn. The largest part of the attacks were coming from Russia and from official servers of the authorities of Russia. In the attack, ministries, banks, and media were targeted.
- In September 2007, Israel carried out an airstrike on Syria dubbed Operation Orchard. U.S. industry and military sources speculated that the Israelis may have used technology similar to that used by the United States Suter airborne network attack system to allow their planes to pass undetected by radar into Syria. Suter is a computer program designed to interfere with the computers of integrated air defense systems
- In 2007, the United States government suffered an “an espionage Pearl Harbor” in which an “unknown foreign power…broke into all of the high tech agencies, all of the military agencies, and downloaded terabytes of information.”
- In 2007 the website of the Kyrgyz Central Election Commission was defaced during its election. The message left on the website read “This site has been hacked by Dream of Estonian organization”. During the election campaigns and riots preceding the election, there were cases of Denial-of-service attacks against the Kyrgyz ISPs.
- Russian, South Ossetian, Georgian and Azerbaijani sites were attacked by hackers during the 2008 South Ossetia War.
- In 2008, a hacking incident occurred on a U.S. military facility in the Middle East. United States Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III had the Pentagon release a document, which reflected that a “malicious code” on a USB flash drive spread undetected on both classified and unclassified Pentagon systems, establishing a digital beachhead, from which data could be transferred to servers under foreign control. “It was a network administrator’s worst fear: a rogue program operating silently, poised to deliver operational plans into the hands of an unknown adversary. This … was the most significant breach of U.S. military computers ever and it served as an important wake-up call”, Lynn wrote in an article for Foreign Affairs.
- On March 28, 2009, a cyber spy network, dubbed GhostNet, using servers mainly based in China has tapped into classified documents from government and private organizations in 103 countries, including the computers of Tibetan exiles, but China denies the claim.
- In July 2009, there were a series of coordinated cyber attacks against major government, news media, and financial websites in South Korea and the United States. While many thought the attack was directed by North Korea, one researcher traced the attacks to the United Kingdom.
- In December 2009 through January 2010, a cyber attack, dubbed Operation Aurora, was launched from China against Google and over 20 other companies. Google said the attacks originated from China and that it would “review the feasibility” of its business operations in China following the incident. According to Google, at least 20 other companies in various sectors had been targeted by the attacks. McAfee spokespersons claim that “this is the highest profile attack of its kind that we have seen in recent memory.”
- In May 2010, In response to Indian Cyber Army defacing Pakistani websites, 1000+ Indian websites were defaced by PakHaxors, TeaMp0isoN, UrduHack & ZCompany Hacking Crew, among those were the Indian CID website, local government of Kerala, Box Office of Indian, Brahmos missile website, Indian HP helpdesk, Indian Institute of Science, and The Indian Directorate General of Shipping.
- In September 2010, Iran was attacked by the Stuxnet worm, thought to specifically target its Natanz nuclear enrichment facility. The worm is said to be the most advanced piece of malware ever discovered and significantly increases the profile of cyberwarfare.
- In October 2010, Iain Lobban, the director of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), said Britain faces a “real and credible” threat from cyber attacks by hostile states and criminals and government systems are targeted 1,000 times each month, such attacks threatened Britain’s economic future, and some countries were already using cyber assaults to put pressure on other nations.
- On November 26 2010, a group calling itself the Indian Cyber Army hacked the websites belonging to the Pakistan Army and the others belong to different ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance, Pakistan Computer Bureau, Council of Islamic Ideology, etc. The attack was done as a revenge of the Mumbai terrorist attack which had confirmed the involvement of Pakistani terrorists.
- On December 4 2010, a group calling itself the Pakistan Cyber Army hacked the website of India’s top investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The National Informatics Center (NIC) has begun an inquiry.
Project of the International Convention on Prohibition of Cyberwar
A Ukrainian professor of International Law, Alexander Merezhko, has developed a project called the International Convention on Prohibition of Cyberwar in Internet. According to this project, cyberwar is defined as the use of Internet and related technological means by one state against political, economic, technological and information sovereignty and independence of any other state. Professor Merezhko’s project suggests that the Internet ought to remain free from warfare tactics and be treated as an international landmark. He states that the Internet (cyberspace) is a “common heritage of mankind.”
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (members include China and Russia) defines cyberwar to include dissemination of information “harmful to the spiritual, moral and cultural spheres of other states”.
In contrast, the United States’ approach focuses on physical and economic damage and injury, putting political concerns under freedom of speech.
This difference of opinion has led to reluctance in the West to pursue global cyber arms control agreements.