keywords: national computer emergency response team , information warfare life cycle model , preventing future recurrent cyber attacks , computer emergency response team , mikheil saakashvili official website , hackers left black doors , instance companies purchase software , raise general public awareness , prevent future attacks estonia established , enemy blocks legitimate user’ ,
Information Warfare and Cyber Terrorism
Technology has changed the global war landscape to another level, instead of countries taking out each other on a battlefield physically they have ventured in to information in order to defeat the enemy. Information warfare is a concept that has been brought about by technology where enemies collect information in all kinds of way from the other party in order to have a competitive advantage especially on matters concerning security (Van Niekerk & Maharaj, 2011). Information warfare can be used in different ways to defeat the enemy e.g. it can be used to strategize, enemy’s information can be disrupted, it can be used for defense etc. Cyber terrorism is the main source of information in information warfare and it is attack on computer systems and programs by clandestine groups with the aim of causing violence to noncombatant targets. Cyber terrorism is usually carried out to coerce the government and its people due to political and social reasons. This paper will focus on three recent information warfare and cyber terrorism attacks and explain the underlying issues in these attacks.
Denial-of-service just as the name suggests is a form of cyber attack where the enemy blocks legitimate user’s access to specific sites. This form of cyber attack happened to Estonia, the most wired country in Europe, in 2007. The cyber attacks were blamed on Russia which is against many countries who were part of the former Soviet Union. With Russia being the aggressor and Estonia being the victim, the cyber attack was blamed on two issues. The first reason is because the Estonian parliament decided to remove the Bronze Soldier memorial from Tallin’s main square. The second reason is because the Estonian government made it difficult for the ethnic Russians living in the
border becoming citizens of Estonia (Iar-gwu.org, 2015). These factors irked the Russian government.
Estonia is a country that is highly dependent on online services, technology and internet in its daily operations. Estonia is known as one of the first country to offer electronic voting to its citizens. The high dependence on internet and online services made the country vulnerable to a cyber attack. The cyber attacks were well orchestrated as they occurred in a span of three weeks where the packets per hour were increasing by the day. Botnets were used to bombard the websites. The attack was in the form of a distributed denial-of service (DDOS). The first attack was against government websites by denying the users access, these attacks knocked the websites offline by the end of the first week. The second attack occurred in the second week and was against the news publications; they were blocked such that they could not convey news to the international community. The third and the worst attack were against the banks with the main target being Hansbank, Estonia’s largest bank. All the online services for the bank were offline and one could not use their debit cards inside or outside Estonia. The country responded by blocking all the international traffic.
In order to prevent future attacks Estonia established a implemented new policies and implemented a cyber defense infrastructure. The country mapped its critical information infrastructure and increased its preparedness against such attacks. The Estonian government has been able to train individuals against such attacks and for survivability purposes. The country established a state information agency that comprises of a cyber defense department, national computer emergency response team and critical infrastructure department (Ackerman, 2014).
In 2008 another cyber attack was witnessed and Georgian government and population were the victims while the Russians
were the alleged aggressors. The reason for the cyber attack was blamed on the conflict between Russia and Georgia over the Georgian province of Southern Ossetia. Just like in Estonia, Russia employed distributed denial-of-service as the mode of cyber attack where they first targeted the president’s Mikheil Saakashvili official website. Other websites that were targeted include news agencies, the ministry of home affairs, the ministry of defense and other commercial websites. The Russians would overload the Georgian websites that led to eventual shutdowns. This was the first time a cyber attack coincided with actual shootings between two countries. The effects of this attack were not as catastrophic as those of Estonia. Georgians had only a limited inaccessibility to the government websites. The cyber attacks also limited the government’s ability to spread its message online and to connect with sympathizers around the world during the fighting with Russia (Markoff, 2008).
The main change that Georgia made was the creation of the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). CERT are concerned in incident handling where they assess security threats and help in solving them, CERT is responsible for analyzing cyber vulnerabilities and reporting them. Big commercial organizations are also working hand in hand with the government of Georgia in beefing up cyber security.
The Americans are not spared the attacks on their cyber space, in 2006 the State Department’s computer system was broken into allegedly by the Chinese. This cyber attack was in the form of a break-in where the hackers wanted to access information related to North Korea and China. The hackers left black doors in the system in order to be able to come back later and access information in the system (Lagorio, 2006). Only unclassified information was affected during the break-in. the cyber attack led the State department to limit
internet access which made it difficult for the employees to effectively accomplish their work. The government had to disable some technologies such as the secure socket layer; this made it impossible for diplomats to access their online banking accounts that used these technologies.
The most prominent step taken by the U.S. in curbing future cyber attacks is the sharing of information on the attacks. President Obama signed an executive order that enabled cyber security through more sharing of information of government and private firms. The U.S. established mandatory reports on cyber security issues both on government and private institutions.
The cyber attacks on Estonia and Georgia were similar because they were both DDOS attacks while that on U.S. involved stealing of information. There are various ways that future cyber attacks can be prevented. Effective information sharing is important because it assists the government to identify potential threats and come up with measures to mitigate them. Cyber supply chain security is an important factor in preventing future recurrent cyber attacks. For instance companies purchase software that has cyber attack vulnerabilities, therefore they need to update the software or discard them all in all to prevent the attacks. Cyber self defense can be used by the governments in preventing future hackers. The government should implement policies and laws that will enable the prosecution of cyber criminals in order to remove them from the public and committing more acts. The government should raise general public awareness on issues related to cyber crime; this can be done through training and education programs in order to improve the survivability skills in the cyber warfare.
Ackerman, R., K (2014). Estonia Builds on Lessons Learned After Cyber Attack. Retrieved 25 October 2015, from http://www.afcea.org/content/?q=estonia-builds-lessons-learned-after-cyber-attack
Lagorio, C. (2006). State Department Computers Hacked. Cbsnews.com. Retrieved 25 October 2015,
Iar-gwu.org,. (2015). Denial-of-Service: The Estonian Cyberwar and Its Implications for U.S. National Security | International Affairs Review. Retrieved 25 October 2015, from http://www.iar-gwu.org/node/65
Markoff, J. (2008). Before the Gunfire, Cyberattacks – NYTimes.com. Retrieved 25 October 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/13/technology/13cyber.html?_r=0
Van Niekerk, B., & Maharaj, M. (2011). The Information Warfare Life Cycle Model. S Afr J Inf Manag, 13(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/sajim.v13i1.476
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