Cyber warfare: The next generation of combat

In the United States, as well as in many other parts of the world, people have come to rely on phones, computers and the Internet.  Electronics are used for the majority of communication, both locally, as well as around the world.  However, this method of reaching others is always risky; one danger is cyber warfare.

On Feb. 25, Paul de Souza, founder and owner of the Cyber Security Forum Initiative (CSFI), with over 10 years of cyber security experience, presented the dangers of cyber war at Lewis University.  The CSFI is a collaboration of the military, government and private sector.  It is dedicated to protecting the Internet from any act of terrorism.

What exactly is cyber warfare?  “Simply put, it is warfare waged in cyberspace,” de Souza said.  The Internet is the “Holy Grail” of the 21st Century and any electronic signal or anything that sends, receives or reflects those signals can be used to damage the “Grail”.

Why is this happening? ”Terrorizing a main means of communication leads to power,” de Souza said. “It’s all about survival.”  Groups, both government and privately sponsored, are trying to destroy, corrupt, deny access and hide information on a daily basis.  There is also a lack of international cyber rules of engagement, opening many portals to danger.  The Internet has no boundaries, meaning anyone can wage war; it is complex, vulnerable and unpredictable.  The physical impacts of attacks are hard to perceive because of the complete decentralization, anonymity, immaturity, and always-changing aspects of the Internet.

The U.S. is constantly under attack from many threats. Spam, phishes, hackers, malware authors and government insiders are only a few.  “The government policy on cyber attack is undeveloped, uncertain, ill informed, and has a lack of oversight,” said de Souza.  The Internet is a natural conduit for war and because the U.S. relies so much on it, the U.S. then becomes a target.

Should any communicating to Europe stop, the U.S. would suffer.  However, there are submarine cable systems which act as a back up to land lines.  The only problem with these systems is that they are easy to disrupt and take apart.  The backbone connectivity lies in the hands of a few major companies, all looking toward their own agenda and all open to attack.

Warfare attacks have had a long history and still continue.  Eleven percent of email received is legitimate.  Two- hundred billion spam messages are sent out a day.  Worm viruses were just the beginning.  Botnets were created from these viruses, which were mostly controlled by the Russian Business Network, and are now used to attack.  Russian software, Sky Grabber, can compromise U.S. drones because of the Botnets. It can capture government drone signals and images, which can then be used  their own gain.

Cyber weapons are cheap to develop and can strike at the speed of light.  With them, financial and economic impact can be as high as $30 billion.  By 2013, the U.S. will have more PCs than users, making it a big target.  “Few things can be done to help, but one important thing is to stay informed,” de Souza said.  One such effort was the cyber shockwave, enacted by the government to inform about cyber warfare, which is still shown on YouTube.  There have been blackouts, attacks on government equipment and, more recently, China’s attack on Google in an attempt to regulate information.  It can happen anywhere, it may happen everywhere, so be prepared.

Lewis University is also prone to cyber warfare.  Since it uses a wireless network, it is vulnerable to attacks and hacking from outside sources.  These subtle bumps can potentially shut down and ruin every computer in use.  Enabling firewalls and protection software can help protect the computer; however, it cannot protect the Internet itself.

Every generation has its own kind of war. Ours is not one of guns, but of communication and information security. It is just as crucial as physical wars, though.  The Internet is used for everything, and damaging it in any way can damage countries reliant on cyberspace.

The Lewis Flyer

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