By Daniel Di Santo
Cyber war is the newest frontier of international conflict. It is a secretive and murky arena where nations spar with one another over breaches of information and various security threats. It is truly a twenty-first century phenomenon. The average citizen can easily turn a blind eye to its presence; multiple thousands of attempted attacks occur each day, with only the massive data breaches being reported on.
You may have heard how the US government suffered a massive data breach which gave hackers access to the private information of 21.5 million people . But cyber attacks have also come to Canada. This past July, Walmart’s photo centre also suffered a data breach. You might immediately conclude that this is pathetically unimportant, but think about it. First of all, the attack compromised the credit cards of approximately six thousand people, and if you were one of them, it would be more than a little inconvenient. Second, this means that such modern evils as identity and data theft could be coming to a store near you. But most importantly, this is only a small reminder of the large scale destruction which a military cyber war could bring on the critical infrastructure of any nation. In his book entitled Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It, Richard A. Clarke recounts how air defense radars can be blinded:
The skies over Syria seemed safe and largely empty as midnight rolled around. In fact, however, formations of Eagles and Falcons had penetrated Syrian airspace from Turkey. Those aircraft, designed and first built in the 1970s, were far from stealthy. Their steel and titanium airframes, their sharp edges and corners, the bombs and missiles hanging on their wings, should have lit up the Syrian radars like the Christmas tree illuminating New York’s Rockefeller Plaza in December. But they didn’t.
Radar screens remained blank while a large strike force targeted a suspected nuclear weapons factory. It was still under construction, and when workers returned in the morning, they found it annihilated. All of this happened back in 2007. Currently, the militaries of practically all developed countries are capable of conducting crippling cyber warfare. In a large-scale attack, it is not too hard to imagine how one superpower could gain a decisive advantage over another, striking a death blow without warning. In our age of digital manipulation and fast strikes, there is almost no time to react- we may never know what hit us.
Clarke, Katrina. 2015, July 15. Wal-Mart Canada shuts online photo centre over potential credit card data breach. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/business/2015/07/14/walmart-canada-shuts-online-photo-centre-over-potential-credit-card-data-breach.html
Clarke, Richard A., & Knake, Robert K. (2010). Trial Runs. In Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It (1). Retrieved from https://wss.apan.org/2401/Document%20Library/MSC2014/MCSS/Cyber%20War%20-%20The%20Next%20Threat%20to%20National%20Security%20and%20What%20to%20Do%20About%20It%20(Richard%20A%20Clarke)%20(2010).pdf
Davis, Julie Hirschfeld. 2015, July 9. Hacking of Government Computers Exposed 21.5 Million People. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/10/us/office-of-personnel-management-hackers-got-data-of-millions.html
Flickr (n.d.). Web. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/15209454581