Opinion: The modern warfare of cyber attacks

Albert Fisler is a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

Albert Fisler

Tensions are currently rising in Eastern Europe as Ukraine claims to have been cyber-attacked by Russia.  Ukrainian authorities have confirmed communication networks were disrupted Tuesday, according to BBC News.

Russia has been accused of this type of attack in the past; Georgia almost blamed the country for a similar attack in 2008. According to The New York Times, distributed denial of service, or D.D.O.S., attacks barraged Georgian servers with millions of requests that overloaded and ultimately shut them down. Russia was also accused of attacking Estonia’s servers in 2007 in a similar fashion.  

After a disagreement with Russia over the relocation of a Soviet war memorial in Estonia, US News reported the cyber attacks affected Estonian banks, parliament, ministries, newspapers and TV. This undoubtedly disrupted any systems related to the Internet because of the inability to access information.  

According to US News, Estonia called this an act of war by Russia and turned to NATO for assistance. NATO was skeptical of accepting this as a true, hostile attack, seeing it as simply a great inconvenience for the country.  

However, with the recent attacks in Ukraine, this might only be the beginning of cyber warfare.  Bill Woodcock, the research director of a nonprofit organization that tracks Internet traffic called Packet Clearing House, told The New York Times that cyber attacks are inexpensive and leave few fingerprints.

 “It costs about 4 cents per machine,” Woodcock said. “You could fund an entire cyber warfare campaign for the cost of replacing a tank tread.”  

Although Russian security services have not commented on the cyber attacks, BBC News reported that security experts speculate Russia might be exercising restraint in its cyber capabilities.  

This new type of warfare has great potential for heavy effects if used efficiently on either side.  The loss of systems that control anything from electricity to water —  even Internet —  could be devastating if actually damaged or tampered with.  

The potential loss of electricity would prove overwhelming if such systems were attacked.  You might recall the massive blackout that affected more than 55 million people in North America in 2003, spanning from Ontario to New Jersey.  

I still remember how it seemed as if entire neighborhoods had stopped, as no one could go to work. Grocery stores were forced to discard most of the stock that had spoiled in the absence of electricity. If the possibility for a cyber attack does exist, it could potentially interrupt strictly regulated routines for countless businesses, which would cost millions of dollars in spoiled products.

It might still be unclear if these cyber attacks could, in fact, be considered acts of war in this early stage, but if lives are lost because of the extent of these attacks, perspectives might change, and these cyber attacks could be seen as dangerous rather than inconvenient.