What led to cyberwarfare

Digital war : What is the cyberwar?

The attackers seem to come from nowhere and without warning. From one minute to the next, the communication networks are cut, websites are no longer accessible. But the horror scenario goes even further: the power supply collapses. Subways and trains suddenly stop. In industrial plants the controls fail, boilers explode and release clouds of poison gas, oil refineries go up in flames. Hundreds of thousands die within hours and the police are just as helpless as the military. The enemy is everywhere, but nobody knows him and there is no defense.

Some experts see the targeted shutdown of communication channels, as practiced these days by the rulers in Egypt, as a "cyber war", which in the narrower sense of the word means a war by means of sabotage of electronic communication and control networks. Here, too, there would have been sabotage, they argue - just a targeted one by authoritarian leaders who were supposed to thwart the opposition's channels of communication. Other experts prefer not to speak of cyberwar here. The targeted shutdowns are a targeted process "from above", not sabotage by other states or by computer hackers against whom the victims are powerless. It is above all this type of digital war that is now one of the greatest security risks in the USA. Basically, as the Vice Admiral and former head of the Bush administration's intelligence services, Michael McDonnel, claimed, “we have been waging such a war a long time ago, and we are about to lose it”. Richard Clark, National Security Advisor to the White House during the Bush administration, paints similar horrors. The main danger is from China, which is preparing for cyber war on a large scale, warned Clark and thus met with approval from America's military elite.

Armament for war in the “fifth dimension” alongside the previous naval, air, space and army forces is a high priority for US President Barack Obama. In May 2010 he appointed the four-star general Keith Alexander, who previously headed the NSA wiretapping service, as head of an initially 3000-strong "Cyber ​​Command". The official budget is around seven billion dollars a year. The same amount will be used for secret operations, reported investigative journalist and military expert Seymour Hersh recently.
The Western leading power now expects its NATO partners to make similar efforts. That is why the possible cyber war will also be a focus of the Munich Security Conference, the traditional annual meeting of Western defense politicians, which begins on Thursday. The international threats to peace and security from the Internet have long been more than just science fiction scenarios, explained the conference leader and former State Secretary in the Foreign Office, Wolfgang Ischinger.
But as great as the warnings of a possible “cyber war” are, it is uncertain what it actually means and with which methods and against which opponents it should be waged. Certainly, information technology now permeates almost all areas of society. Regardless of whether it is power grids or military logistics, whether in companies or in governments, nothing works anymore without computers, and networking seems limitless. This not only opens up a wide field for demonstrators like in Tunisia and Egypt, but also for potential aggressors.

Have there already been attacks?
There have never been any real attacks on the scale of war. Only small Estonia fell victim to a concerted hacker attack in April 2007. At that time the Estonians were in dispute with Russia over the relocation of a symbolic monument; Russian nationalists paralyzed the country's Internet for a short time through mass, automated queries on Estonian websites. That is why the banks and the ministries were inaccessible. But this was a comparatively simple attack based on the "Distributed Denial of Service" (DDoS) pattern, which can be fended off with simple security precautions.
However, the case of Estonia documented the fundamental problem of such attacks: the perpetrators cannot be clearly identified. For trained attackers, it is possible to cover up their data tracks and direct their attacks via computers in completely different locations and in different countries than those where they are located. The Russian government denied any involvement, no one could prove otherwise. At the same time, however, it is also questionable whether a large-scale cyber attack makes any military sense at all. It would require years of planning and a great deal of technological know-how that is only available to rich and large countries. But why should China, for example, launch such an attack against the United States? “That would do just as much economic damage to us as it does to the US,” say high-ranking Chinese government officials.

Many experts consider the term “cyber war” to be misleading. The real danger is not the outbreak of an “open, hot military conflict” over the Internet, but rather “an electronic rebirth of the Cold War with espionage, sabotage and numerous small incidents”, says Sandro Gaycken, security researcher at Berlin's Free University and Author of a recently published book about the "Internet as a theater of war". However, this raises the question of what means the states should use to counter this. If it were only about averting danger, this would by no means have to be a task of the military, but could, beyond the military infrastructure itself, be organized primarily by civil institutions, as in Germany the Federal Office for Information Security (BIS) on behalf of the Home Office does.
Critics such as the US IT security expert Bruce Schneier therefore warn that the fear propaganda about cyberwar primarily serves to open up new means from taxpayers' money for the military-industrial complex threatened by cuts - a thesis that is supported by the fact that the largest Warner, like Clark and McDonnel, work for the armaments industry and all major armaments companies have created their own departments. In truth, however, according to Schneier, “cyber warfare is no more likely than a military invasion with ground troops”. With the evocation of the danger there is a threat of a militarization of the Internet, in which the military makes itself the guardian of network security - as in Egypt and Iran.

A “mainly military answer” to the threat in cyberspace “is a mistake”, also state the British researchers Peter Sommer from the London School of Economics and Ian Brown from the University of Oxford in a study published last week for the OECD. Because the identity of possible attackers cannot be determined anyway, upgrading with the development of its own attack tools does not provide any additional security. “It would be more effective to improve the resilience of critical systems in general and to create backup systems for emergencies” that make it possible to repair components that have been destroyed in the event of an anonymous attack.

The cyber warriors of the United States and its ally Israel, of all people, demonstrated the danger that the military concept entails. According to US military experts told reporters for the "New York Times", it was they who developed the sabotage software "Stuxnet" in 2009. It is a complex program to break into control computers for industrial equipment manufactured by Siemens. The developers use security holes in the Windows program with which the protective mechanisms of the infected computers could be switched off - an effort that, according to all experts, required several million dollars and a large, highly qualified team. The computer virus was designed in such a way that it spread via many computers, but was only intended to attack the control of a very specific uranium enrichment facility in the Iranian town of Natans. Indeed, as reported by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, numerous centrifuges broke there in 2009.
The downside of this supposed success, however, is that hackers, on behalf of the state, are now circulating a blueprint for the construction of sabotage weapons via network attacks, which in turn become a danger. Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) has now confirmed that there are already first copies of the malicious program that can target industrial plants. In view of such risks, it is urgent to start international negotiations to outlaw cyber weapons, warned ex-general and CIA boss Michael Hayden. In principle, the US government has approved a corresponding UN proposal. But apart from informal discussions, little has happened so far. The armament is again faster than all diplomacy.

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