Cyberwar: A guide to the frightening future of online conflict
With cyberwarfare, the battlefield is going online. Here’s everything you need to know.
WHAT IS CYBERWAR?
At its core, cyberwarfare is the use of digital attacks by one state to disrupt the computer
systems of another in order to create significant damage or destruction.
WHAT DOES CYBERWARFARE LOOK LIKE?
Cyberwar is still an emerging concept, but many experts are concerned that it is likely to be a
significant component of any future conflicts. As well as troops using conventional weapons like
guns and missiles, future battles will also be fought by hackers manipulating computer code.
Governments and intelligence agencies worry that digital attacks against vital infrastructure —
like banking systems or power grids — will give attackers a way of bypassing a country’s
Unlike standard military attacks, a cyberattack can be launched instantaneously from any
distance, with little obvious evidence in the build-up. And it is often extremely hard to trace
such an attack back to its originators. Modern economies, underpinned by computer networks that
run everything from sanitation to food distribution and communications, are particularly
vulnerable to such attacks.
The head of the US National Security Agency (NSA) Admiral Michael Rogers said his worst case
cyberattack scenario would involve “outright destructive attacks”, focused on some aspects of
critical US infrastructure and coupled with data manipulation “on a massive scale.” Some experts
warn it’s a case of when, not if.
WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF CYBERWARFARE?