Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Blogpost #3 - Conflict and Warfare in the Digital Age

According to the Congressional Service, "US officials now consider cyberspace to be a domain for warfare, similar to air, space, land, and sea."

After reading this article, I got a better understanding for the topic "Conflict and Warfare in the Digital Age".

I was one of those who listened to the lecture on cyber-warfare and thought to myself "all this hacking stuff is done through computers, and I could careless who hacks into it, or sends a virus". That thought quickly upgraded when I read the line "If these things [talking about railways and electrical systems] were threatened, some commentators believe it is not just the internet at threat, but many lives."

So many people, like myself, don't understand the extent to which these hackers can reach. Almost every system we control these days is run by technology and can be hacked. With technology, military literally wouldn't even need to step foot into the country they were attacking - they just hack a system and start shutting down power grids, disrupting public transportation, or water systems. The article points out that there's no "Red Cross" or "FEMA" for the internet. Who do we send to help the aftermath of a cyberwar?

My point is that this conflict has the ability to grow larger than just web vandalism.

In 1998, we had the digital power to hack into air trafficking systems to hide incoming planes on a radar. That was almost 15 years ago! Imagine the capabilities hackers have now.

I agree with Frank Coggrave, vice president of digital investigators Guidance Software, as he believe these sorts of comments are "edging towards hysteria", because simply by reading this article I started to run through all the cyber warfare possibilities. It's scary.

The problem now is how do you prevent it?

"There is no clear, internationally agreed upon definition of what would constitute a cyber-war," said a report released at the Munich Security Conference by The EastWest Institute. To begin with, the internet was designed to be a free country. When it turns into a cyber war, who is to determine territory or boundary lines? And how will anyone be able to pinpoint one organization or country to blame, when we have such interconnectivity? Also, Viruses tend to be indiscriminate, they are not like soldiers who you train to attack certain things. How will a virus know what computer or system belongs to whom?

For me, these questions are hard to answer, but for people and organizations who study and live in this information, the answers might be in their hands, and they may be holding more power than we imagine. I think it's time we stand at our digital frontline and build our online security, before we find ourselves on a very different type of battlefield.

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