Cyberwar and Social Impact

By on October 20th, 2014 in Societal Impact

War tends to have significant social impact.  Even back in the days of civilized warfare (civilians from Washington DC went to view the first battle of Bull Run aka Manassas, they were caught in the retreat of the Union forces) there were significant impacts on Society.  In the recent issue of Technology and Society, authors Flowers and Zeadally outline the challenges faced by Cyberwar.

When is a cyber abuse an act of war?

The abusers include script-kiddies, criminals, corporate/national espionage, civil protests, up to nation state attacks sometimes accompanied by ‘kinetic’ battles.  Events may go undetected for extended periods, or may take out significant military or economic targets (such as the power grid.)  And identifying the source of an attack can be difficult, particularly if the attackers choose to make it difficult.

This paper outlines nation state attacks ranging back to 1982, when a Soviet pipeline was destroyed, up to fairly recent events.  It also provides a country of origin count for attacks in 2013 — with Russia leading (1.15 million) then the U.S. (.86 million), and in case you were wondering, China comes in at #8 (.25 million) after Germany, Taiwan, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland. Of course the source country does not mean it is a state sponsored attack, nor does it mean that it is directed at military objectives nor might it damage persons or objects.

The NATO Cyber Defense Center of Excellence have sought to define cyber warfare in the recently published Tallinn Manual on International Law Applicable in Cyberwarfare.  But many of the potential “Perps” are not likely to pay much attention to International Law, and of course the response to a given attack becomes problematic if the source or responsible parties cannot be identified — “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The paper concludes that cyber attacks are increasing.  Which leads to the question of what might be done … by technologists, by citizens or by nation states.  What evils are creeping across your part of the web?  What might we do about it?

also see: Cyberwar, the What, When, Why and How 

Photo By Sgt. Stephanie Hargett [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons