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4 ways in which hackers are changing modern warfare

Cyber warfare is currently a hot topic.

29 August 2019
4 ways in which hackers are changing modern warfare

4 ways in which hackers are changing modern warfare

Cyber warfare is currently a hot topic.

Experts in the cyber community are grappling with two important challenges: the potential militarisation of the cyber domain; and the “cyberisation” of the military domain. They are debating ethics, policies, regulations and the impact of cyber weapons on political, social, and economic systems, and the world’s geopolitical order.

These are the four ways in which hackers are changing modern warfare.


1. Cyber attacks can come from anywhere

Malicious cyber operations can originate from anywhere in the world, making cyber warfare a global phenomenon. Locating the origin of an attack can be incredibly difficult, and it is even more challenging if the victim of an attack wishes to retaliate, because the means of doing so are currently very unclear. Hundreds of computers and servers can be used by hackers as ‘botnets’ without any knowledge of their owners.


2. Anonymity is used as a defence tactic

Malicious hackers can easily disguise themselves and often do so in order to avoid attribution or exposure, using anonymity as a tactic to free themselves from responsibility and protect themselves against retribution. These newly evolved cyber warfare tactics have thus turned traditional warfare on its head, causing experts to reflect with increasing urgency on the rapid evolution of warfare in the 21st century. 


3. Deterrence theory is being challenged

Traditional warfare depends on the theory of deterrence as a belief that it maintains international security and stability. This theory refers to the ability of one power to deter another power from attacking it because of the possible threat of devastating retaliation. Small nuclear-weapons-armed states have developed a special type of deterrence of the ‘weak’ vis-à-vis the ‘strong’. However, in cyber warfare, this theory is currently inapplicable because of the difficulty in targeted retaliation. 


4. Cyber capabilities cannot be measured

The theory of deterrence no longer applies because the strength and power of cyber warfare capabilities cannot yet be measured in the same way as conventional power such as that residing in large armed forces equipped with nuclear weapons. Anyone may have cyber weapons or capabilities that cannot be traced, unlike those of traditional warfare. Malicious hackers can identify and exploit weaknesses and system vulnerabilities of which the state or organisation they are attacking may be completely unaware. As a result, the race to develop them means to carry out cyber attacks and defend oneself against them is at full throttle. The issue of cyber warfare has therefore become central to modern state security, because cyber weapons are cheap, highly effective and almost invisible, while their use can be easily denied.


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