State-Sponsored Cyberattacks: Are They on the Rise?

Warfare has now entered a new era where contra attacks are no longer physical but digital. The nations may strategize cyberattacks with the intention to damage or destroy another’s IT infrastructure. The nation’s economy, state infrastructure, trade, business, communication, transportation, and so on are primarily based on IT and IT-enabled services and attacking these services can disrupt the entire economy and weaken the infrastructure. A recent unprecedented joint statement from the two major countries, the UK and the USA, blaming Russia for cyberattacks defines how state-sponsored cyberattacks initiate among nations. The two nations, the UK and the USA, allied to establish the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI. These organizations aimed to warn businesses and citizens against Russia, who is exploiting routers of the entire world to be able to attack critical infrastructure in the future [1].

Cyberattack is deliberate exploitation of technical infrastructure. It stands for intrusion action by a nation on another nation’s IT network, willingly and unauthorized to damage or cause disruption.

Origin of Nation-State Attacks

There is no specific incident noted as the beginning of cyberwarfare internationally. However, according to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Morris worm is often considered to be the first to trigger cyberwarfare as it affected the nascent cyberinfrastructure in 1988. The worm spread by exploiting vulnerabilities in the finger, UNIX sends mail, as well as by predicting weak passwords [2].

“Stuxnet” is also considered as one of the first successful digital weapons in the history of cyberwarfare. Israel and the USA used Stuxnet virus for their mission, “Operation Olympic Games,” to disrupt a nuclear enrichment facility at Tehran [3].

In the year 2001, Russia launched a DDoS attack on Estonia that disrupted communication and forced significant websites to go offline across the country [4]. Similarly, many incidents of cyberwarfare had taken place and are expected to continue to rise in volume and intensity in the future.

Latest Updates on Cyberwarfare

The USA, Russia, and China have claimed to have initiated cyberattacks on other countries. A case of cyber espionage “Titan Rain” in 2003 falls to the credit of China, which refers to constant attacks on the U.S. defense networks. This espionage targeted confidential national security information of the USA [5]. There is an accusation that Russia influenced the U.S. Presidential elections of 2016. The CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency revealed in high confidence that the Russian government “tried” to influence the elections. This act created havoc in the presidential office [6]. Many other countries across the world complained about the U.S. interference and hacking attacks in their country’s affairs.

Types of Cyberattacks

Cyberattacks are of different types, and they are named differently according to how they take place. In context, it can be cyberwarfare, cyber campaign, or cyberterrorism.

Cyberwarfare is a form of series of related campaigns that are similar to prolonged cyber campaigns. It utilizes methodologies of attack and defense that inhabit cyberspace. With the help of technical instruments, a nation attacks the opponent’s critical IT systems.

Cyber campaign is not harmful or meant to disrupt another nation’s technical infrastructure. It is mere propaganda or promotional act to influence the perception of the targeted country’s citizens about the policies or actions of the former.

Cyberterrorism stands for initiating a cyberattack to shut down prominent national infrastructure, such as transportation, energy, government websites, and so on. It involves using computer network tools to intimidate a civilian population. The cyberwarfare and cyberterrorism are similar as they both aim the disruption of infrastructure linked within the confines of cyberspace.

Possible Countermeasures of Cyberwarfare

Cyberwarfare does not have many countermeasures to be planned against the attacking nation. There is one practical method called “Deterrence,” where a nation replies, formally or informally, that it is willing to respond to the targeted cyber intrusions using military forces.

Cyberwarfare is a never-ending race, and a nation can opt to stop the nonsense by entering in international treaties, such as the NCSC. Perhaps this is the most effective solution that can be implemented among nations to encourage global peace, harmony, and cooperation. However, the rising threats do not ensure the possibilities of peace between nations, and it is the government that must seriously prioritize cybersecurity.

Government Initiatives to Deter Cyberwarfare

Though the interference of Russia in the 2016 American election remains unclear, the technological arsenal of Moscow for waging cyberattacks is appreciable. With this pace, a cyberwar could be a reality with real weapons and casualties. To avoid all the destructive potential that a cyberwarfare can cause, larger countries are establishing a set of principles to determine the conduct of government during cyber conflict. The USA as an economically empowered continent is positioned to enforce cyberwarfare treaties with various nations. During last year, the new cybersecurity strategy was released by the White House outlining a high-level plan on cyberwarfare and the pro-active effort from the government. The document defines the participation of private is inevitable as they are the major targets during warfare. Though the document calls upon strengthening the security of organizations’ that are considered critical infrastructure of the country, few changes also emphasize on offensive measures.

Does this inspire you to be a cyber expert? Does it encourage you to serve your nation and defend it from cyberwarfare? If yes, then you should immediately jump upon to be a part of this growing career. Cybersecurity is evolving, and therefore, it is seeking professionals from different expertise to be a part of it. To begin, you should have a few significant credentials that develop skills in cybersecurity. EC-Council offers Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH) program, which is an industry-recognized certification that builds your core-strength on hacking systems in an ethical way. The certification is accredited with ANSI and is mapped to the NICE framework that increases the employability of the C|EH professional.

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