Future wars will likely take place in Cyberspace
Like it or not, warfare is changing — and it’s changing at an incredible rate.
When looking at warfare across the history of humankind, this really shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Our ancestors began fighting battles with clubs, which evolved to swords, and then arrows, cannons, missiles, and now drones that rain hell down on our enemies with fantastic precision.
Cyberwar is the next logical step in our evolution of warfare.
While we love the Internet, it is fast becoming the main participant in this hostile new brand of warfare. But this is not just the next rung in the advancement of military weaponry that gets dumped on the traditional battlefield. This warfare is different; it involves the Internet, a medium that millions of citizens use daily.
To understand what we are facing in the future, let us examine the five major weakness of the Internet that is being used in the new global tech war.
Instant attacks from a distance
Human interaction has drastically changed over the last few decades. It used to be that we had to meet face to face for all activities like buying goods, communicating, and armed conflict. Thanks to the Internet, we are doing these things from greater distances.
In regards to the progression of warfare, the Internet is nothing short of a quantum leap. Cyberspace offers an attack that travels at light speeds across immense distances. This means that a combatant could issue an instant online command to arm a missile located thousands of miles away and use it to attack a target thousands of miles away.
But a missile attack is only the beginning. Online attacks come in an infinite number of varieties — creativity is the only limitation. For instance, orders to arm a missile can be electronically jammed, or the electricity grid of a country can be entirely shut down — disarming communications. All of which can be ordered from any distance whatsoever.
Or how about this? What if you could send a virus that is specifically designed to shut down your enemy’s weapon manufacturing? This is already happening.
Harsh attacks with few resources
A very unique and dangerous feature offered by the Internet is that cyber-attacks don’t require a sophisticated industrial base to be developed or deployed. This also means it doesn’t need a substantial financial investment either. So, in the end, the barrier to enter the cyber battlefield is very low.
The present structure of the Internet, for some reason, makes an attack much more effective than defending against one. Anyone that surfs the web knows that it is tough to avoid a computer virus — even under the best protection. Fortunately, most security software packages we use are quite good at cleaning up after such an attack.
Because of how the Internet is structured, a tiny group of bad actors can inflict a severe amount of damage. If these hackers are intelligent enough, just a few can wage online battles against the most powerful nations in the world. For instance, a group called ‘Anonymous’ recently took down the CIA’s website and stole internal emails from the most sophisticated security companies.
Many feel that the empowerment of so many sideline players is the most radical development in cyber-warfare. This is because fraud used to be a costly project — not anymore.
Attacks from anonymous sources
One particularly troublesome feature of cyber-war is trying to identify enemies. This was never an issue with traditional warfare — even when proxy wars were fought, we knew who was behind them. Unfortunately, anonymity has been built into the fabric of the Internet. There are two primary reasons for this:
- The Internet wasn’t designed to acquire the identification of its users. When it was developed, the main objective was to transmit information over a considerable distance rapidly. That made perfect sense at that time because there were just four nodes on the entire Internet, and every user knew each other.
- Presently, there are over 2 billion nodes on the Internet, almost one-third of the world’s entire population. Since none of them were required to identify themselves, anyone can hide in a network this large.
Unfortunately, our culture has eagerly embraced the notion of remaining anonymous online. It brings out the naughtiness in many of us — as we take cheap shots at people for various reasons. The best part of this is they have no clue who was behind the attack.
Now take this mindset to a more lethal level — like trying to bring real terror down on an enemy. Or like trying to activate an explosive in an enemy’s weapon silo remotely.
To take this a step further, bad actors go to great extremes to hide their identities. They redirect electronic signals to make it look like they came from someone else. Or they slam their enemies with signals converging from thousands of sources — all at one time.
While finding the identification of a foe is not impossible, it’s extremely difficult. And it takes time and a massive amount of resources to achieve.
Lack of borders
The Internet has always ignored borders and probably always will. Even when countries try to restrict the online capabilities of their citizens, there are still countless ways to get the signal through. This is why it is near impossible to control the worldwide flow of information online. Believe it or not, even a simple email can be a huge factor in this data flow.
This fact alone can be very disorienting. All of us have grown up in a world made up of sovereign nations controlled and defended at their borders. The Internet has thrown much of this sovereignty out the window. This new borderless Cyberspace is a threat to the structure of the global community.
In 1648 during the Peace of Westphalia, sovereign nations were defined by their power to control both the territory and the movement of goods and people across that territory. That concept has been blown to bits by the Internet.
The existence of a borderless Cyberspace has only extended the scope of would-be attackers and the number of their targets.
Difficulty to distinguish
When a piece of computer code is closely examined, it is quite difficult to understand its function at a simple glance. This is because it is made up of 0s and 1s, making it hard to distinguish from any other piece of code.
The logic layer of the Internet is made from these 0s and 1s which make the magic of data transmission possible. Conversely, this inability to quickly identify an evil piece of computer code makes the Internet extremely vulnerable.
So when evil code enters a computer and is allowed to do its bidding, it can potentially change, destroy, or steal any piece of data on that computer. Furthermore, it can use that computer to send out destructive spam and viral attacks on whomever it chooses — masking its own identity. Even a simple email can start the process.
Since it is extremely difficult to identify these destructive codes beforehand, we usually have to wait for them to attack in order to take any kind of action against them. Thus, they always get to deliver the first punch — and as any bar fighter will tell you — whoever strikes first will often win the fight.
Imagine if these five Internet weaknesses are exploited for an evil objective. More specifically, consider what could happen if a smaller nation becomes enraged at the actions of one of the world’s superpowers like China or the United States. Worse yet, what if several small nations ally themselves for the purposes of cyber warfare against a common foe?
Now consider this, what if a mid-sized nation adopts a new Imperialist vision and begins using cyber-attacks on its smaller and weaker neighbors?
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this is the number of bad actors that have been empowered by the weaknesses on the Internet.