Modern-Day Neuromancer: The Cyber-Warfare Revolution

April 14, 2009

The world is moving ever closer to science fiction. When our parents were children, no one would ever have assumed that their entire record collections and much more would be able to fit inside a device the size of a wallet.  When we were children no one could have imagined the impact social networking and web 2.0 would have on American culture.  Not ten years ago, very few people could have imagined that a strike on a nation’s Internet connection could cripple it.  Nonetheless, these are exactly the developments that took place. 


The Estonian example of Cyber-attack is probably the best example of the dangers of cyber-crime.  In a country whose government operates primarily through networking services, the crippling of their Prime Minister’s, Foreign Affairs and Justice Ministers’ websites for a period of time, effectively removing the government’s primary ability to interact with its people.  Had this censure of communication occurred by traditional means on a less technocratic society, this would have been a declaration of war.  The DDOS attacks were coordinated by Russian hackers and carried out by more than 100,000 “Zombie” PCs, which must count for some sort of criminal charge.


The recent Russian attack on the Georgian communications networks is another key example of the effectiveness of cyber-warfare.  The attack on the Georgian communications networks was conducted in tandem with a physical military operation, intended to destabilize the nation for the duration of the attack.  Using DDOS and SQL based viruses, the Russian hackers shut down the Georgian government websites and media outlets, effectively blinding and silencing the nation’s Internet presence.


Espionage has not been left out of the new cyber-warfare trend, the People’s Republic of China have been honing their cyber-espionage skills for years.  In fact, the Peoples Liberation Army have incorporated hackers into their ranks for the purpose of digital espionage.  If this is to be the future of intelligence, then countries need to find more secure ways of exchanging information, or lessen their dependence on digital communications a thought that is not attractive to many of the rising technocracies in the world.


Patrick Farley


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