THE INVISIBLE CYBER WAR
by Yiannos Charalambides
2. Definition of Cyber war
Beyond the types of wars mentioned above, another type of war is also noteworthy. It is the cyber war, which is inherent to technological development and is always used in the context of a wide range of wars. The actors involved in such a war use high level technologies. Cyber war is part of the wider electronic war and its technological capabilities are exploited as indispensable instruments for the victorious outcome of a classical, conventional or any other kind of conflict. In attempting to define what “cyber warfare” is, the U.S. government security expert, Richard A. Clarke maintains:
>“When the terms of ‘Cyber war’ are used in this book, they refer to actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation's computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption” (Clarke 2010, p. 6).
In addition, the Economist wrote that cyberspace constitutes “the fifth domain of warfare” (in addition to land, sea, air and space) (Economist 2010) and William J. Lynn, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, underlines 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” (Lynn 2010, p.97-98).
These are some short definitions of cyber war. However, one could assert that cyber war cannot be precisely defined. Pursuant to a study requested by the Subcommittee on Security and Defence and issued by the European Parliament:
>“There is no common definition of what might constitute ‘cyber warfare’. The 2007 attacks on Estonia, the 2008 attacks on Georgia, the deployment of Stunxet, or the ongoing high level cyber-espionage were all called cyber war at some point. Even cyber attacks that most likely have nothing to do with conflicts between states, such as ‘hacktivism’, or cyber attacks in the wake of the 2010 WikiLeaks affair, or in support of the February – March 2011 Arab revolts have been called cyber war, implying in effect that the concept of warfare is not limited anymore to mere nation – states. In the absence of a common definition, most of the EU Member States and the Commission have studiously avoided using the term cyber warfare in official documents and often prefer neutral such as ‘cyber espionage’, ‘cyber attack’ or ‘cyber defence’” (European Parliament, 2012, p. 9) .
According to the so–called AF-SAB model there are three levels of military cyber attacks:
The First Level of military cyber attacks is the “network wars” or “‘system administrator versus system administrator’. This includes mobile malicious logic, Trojan attacks, basic phishing attempts, common exploits, website defacement and other common headaches falling within this category”. This category of attacks is the least serious, including “purported state-sponsored espionage attacks on the government such as the ‘Moonlight Maze’ and ‘Titan Rain’ campaign”. These attacks can be addressed by proper network security precautions” (European Parliament, 2012, p. 7). “Titan Rain” was a sophisticated and cyber espionage attack which “began in 2003 against the US and led to the wide-scale breach of classified US government and military systems, with loss of 10-12 terabytes of information” (European Parliament, 2012, p.52). This attack and others had been organised and performed by non-state Chinese hackers. Over a four year period, they launched similar attacks on government systems and EU member states and EU institutions. Albeit the attackers were not directly associated with the Chinese State, they probably cooperated with the Chinese Security Service as they were under an official command also having connections with high level political leadership.
The Second Level cyber attacks fall under “cyber - adjunct to kinetic combat”. The operator attempts to achieve a “kinetic effect” in conjunction to a conventional attack, such as an air strike. Therefore, the operator uses malicious logic to defuse an air defence network. This example exemplifies level 2 cyber attacks (European Parliament, 2012, pp. 7-8). The 2008 cyber attacks on Georgia also fall under this category. These attacks had been combined with military conventional operations and therefore had a kinetic effect. During the war on Georgia, the Russians defaced websites whilst they also launched attacks on critical energy infrastructures. Another relevant case of Level 2 cyber war practice was the one between Syria and Israel in 2007, when the Israelis used the American cyber-weapon, named “Senior Suter”, in order to defuse the Syrian Antiaircraft Network and successfully launched their airstrikes against Syria and precisely hit supposed nuclear facilities on the ground.
The last and Third Level is “malicious manipulation”, which specialists consider as the most dangerous attacks. These attacks: “are the ones to be feared, they are covert, they are planned, they are orchestrated and they can use widespread havoc and disruption without the victims realizing their problems are cyber related”.
According to a study issued by the services of the European Parliament, “Level 3 attacks also conceal a wide range of possible behaviour – this can include the simple manipulation of a spreadsheet, to Stuxnet and similar purported limited attacks on critical infrastructure, to mass –casualty attacks on an entire nation’s critical infrastructure or even the misrouting of the internet itself” (European Parliament 2012, p. 8).
It is of utmost importance to underline that with a reference to “Stuxnet” we mean a “cyber missile” which had been “directed squarely at the Iranian nuclear program by targeting its uranium enrichment capability” (European Parliament p. 52, The Economist, 2010). As the report of the European Parliament maintains: “There has been clear evidence that Stuxnet was successful in damaging and delaying the Iranian enrichment program” (European Parliament, 2012, p. 52, Farwell and Rohozinski 2011, pp. 23-40). This attack was not the first one which used the invisible “weapon” of high technology. As Thomas Reed underlines, an advisor to President Ronald Reagan alleged that the CIA used a logistic bomb in 1982 to destroy a Soviet pipeline and he adds:
“It was programmed to go haywire, to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to the pipeline joints and welds. The result was the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space” (Reed, 2004, p. 269).
Edited by man, 04 November 2013 - 06:42 PM.