Contemporary Cyber-warfare Cases Studies
In 2011, the Center for Strategic and International Studies published Significant Cyber Incidents Since 2006 (Lewis, 2011) as part of its Cyber and Internet Policy, Technology and Public Policy Program. Among the incidents detailed in that report, referenced by their year of occurrence:
After officials in former-Soviet Estonia removed a World War II memorial from its capital city of Tallinn in the Spring of 2007, a large-scale cyber-attack disabled the websites and computer networks of Estonia's government offices, the office of the president, the Estonian Parliament, police facilities, news organizations, two of Estonia's largest financial institutions.
United States Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, confirmed has his unclassified email account had been successfully hacked. Subsequent investigation identified that attack as having originated directly from the People's Liberation Army in China.
As German Chancellor, Angela Merkel visits China, German, French, and British government computer systems suffer a major attack on their respective computer information systems. Those attacks are connected to Chinese hackers with toes to that nation's military. After complaints to Beijing, China's Premier, Wen Jiabao, promises to enact "forceful measures" against those responsible.
Computer systems of the British Foreign Office and other government entities suffer intrusions identified as having originated from China's People's Liberation Army. Director-General, Jonathan Evans, of the elite British MI5 counter-terrorism agency references the intrusions in his first speech, expressing frustration that the anti-terrorism mission of his organization has had to waste valuable resources combating espionage by Russia and China.
According to South Korean officials, China launched intrusion attacks against Korean embassy and military networks.
Unidentified foreign intruders gain unauthorized access to the databases of the U.S. Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns.
Shortly before armed conflict erupts between Russia and former Soviet Georgia, the government computer systems of the latter are hacked in an attack that successfully overloads and disables their network servers. The timing suggests to independent investigators that the cyber-attacks were not random or coincidental, but provide evidence of co-ordination between the entities responsible and the Russian military.
During Israel's 2009 Gaza Strip offensive, more than five million computers execute a coordinated cyber-attack on that government's. Israeli investigators attribute the attack to Hamas or Hezbollah-financed enterprises perpetrated by criminal organizations located in the former Soviet Union.
According to a report published by experts fro the University of Toronto, sensitive data from hundreds of government computers in more than 100 countries were compromised by an attack launched by a Chinese spying operation called "GhostNet." That investigation had been originally requested by the Tibetan government-in-exile after it discovered 1,295 computers infected with malware in connection with which network administrators monitored the theft of documents in real time using webcams and microphones. Those incidents also reveal that information warfare efforts launched from China are greatly increasing in sophistication by virtue of their "high-value" targets and other evidence of a targeted spying operation.
The "Conficker" or "Downadup" computer worm threatens millions of computers by virtue of an inherent vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. The worm successfully infects millions of business organizations, government agencies, and personal networks, an extends to consumer devices such as USB memory sticks, in addition to traditional hardware system targets.
After China's leading search engine suffers a cyber-attack launched by Iranian hackers, Chinese hackers reciprocate in kind, targeting Iranian websites. Internet users in China encounter pages covered with pictures of the Iranian flag and the phrase "Iranian Cyber Army" on Baidu, China's largest Internet search engine. To retaliate, Chinese hackers emblazon Chinese flags and nationalist slogans on Iranian websites.
Former U.S. Intelligence Chief, Michael McConnell, testifies before the U.S. Senate that the threat to the nation posed by foreign computer hackers is as significant as the existential threat once posed by Soviet nuclear weapons during the Cold War and that the U.S. is currently unprepared...
The estimated monetary losses to Sony exceed $170 million.
The FBI identifies Chinese entities with likely government connections to infiltration of the International Monetary Fund computer network via fraudulent emails infected with malware.
Seventy-two (mostly American) organizations suffer cyber-attacks launched by a major cyber-espionage operation that successfully obtains unauthorized access to major military secrets as well as commercial industrial designs. The breach is discovered and announced by the computer security firm McAfee, after that company succeeded in infiltrating one of the servers involved as a point of control in the attack. Subsequent investigation reveal breaches dating back to 2006 and tracing breaches to the UN, the International Olympic Committee, and to the governments of Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, the U.S., and Vietnam. The computer systems of at least six U.S. government agencies and thirteen defense contractors are compromised.
There is no doubt that computer technology has contributed greatly to global development and to human endeavours since their introduction, but even more so since the dawn of the Internet Age and the Digital Revolution. However, as has historically proven to be the case with major technological innovation throughout human history, there also negative consequences and potential threats posed by computer technology. In the realm of criminal enterprises, computer technology now allows major criminal organizations to perpetrate financial and other so-called "white-collar" crimes against millions of victims from the relative safety of remote locations.
Even more serious is the fact that terrorist groups and well-funded nation states now have the capability to conduct major attacks capable of disrupting the societies and even destroying the critical infrastructure upon which modern life depends without ever having to worry about confronting superior military forces. In that regard, in particular, the evidence strongly suggests that the U.S. is currently extremely vulnerable to major catastrophic cyber-warfare attacks from nations such as China, among others, most likely. Naturally, the risks posed by exiting capabilities and inclinations of various state-funded and major independent malicious entities absolutely require increased dedication of resources to mitigating the risks they represent to the nation.
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Kelsey, J.T.G. "Hacking into International Humanitarian Law: The Principles of Distinction and Neutrality in the Age of Cyber Warfare." Michigan Law Review,
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