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Cyberwarfare – A Growing Threat

Cyberwarfare – A Growing Threat

UPSC CSE -SYLLABUS:GENERAL STUDIES-3-Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention

Cyberwarfare – A Growing Threat


  • Cyberwarfare is a strategic competition conducted between adversaries in cyberspace.
  • It allows countries to conduct covert operationson a large scale, cheaply, and anonymously.
  • These latter three attributes are particularly important to understand.
  • Cyberwarfare is broad because it can occur in at least five different spaces — economic, societal, cultural/intellectual, military, and political.
  1. Economic:

Economically, in the US, 85% of cyberattack targets are in the private sector — small banks, for example, can face over 10,000 attacks per day.

US government agencies recently released a joint advisory warning that BeagleBoyz, a North Korean hacking group, has once again started robbing banks worldwide, including in India, through remote internet access to fund Kim Jong-Un’s cash-strapped regime.

  • Societal:

Societally, sowing disinformation through social media disinformation is also cyberwarfare.

Russia has been particularly savvy in this field but recently, China has stepped up its game.

  • Intellectual:

Intellectual property (IP) rights are another avenue of strategic competition — in 2014, the US justice department indicted five Chinese military hackers and accused them of stealing secrets from US Steel, JP Morgan, Alcoa, Westinghouse Electrical Co., SolarWorld and United Steelworkers.

  • Military:

Military cyberattacks are perhaps the most associated with cyberwarfare — the “Sandworm Team”, a group associated with Russian intelligence, has conducted attacks on government sectors in the US, Ukraine, Poland, and on the European Union and NATO.

Cheap and anonymity:

Cyberwarfare is both cheap and anonymous because,

  • The internet is today an essential critical infrastructure.
  • Any country that is heavily reliant on it is at a relative disadvantage — the threats range from IP theft, to small businesses, to elections, to even the electricity grid.
  • And it is exceedingly cheap – training videos are easily available online so all that is needed is a motivated group of people with an inexpensive laptop and an internet connection.

Government agencies:

  • A well-documented and game-changing cyberattack occurred in 2010 when a malware “Stuxnet” was released that was designed to damage Iran’s nuclear capability by making Iranian scientists and government think there were a series of internal engineering mishaps at their enrichment facility.
  • It was a clever and sophisticated attack.
  • Stuxnet was reported to be a result of US-Israeli collaboration and showed that governments can use malware to achieve covert intelligence objectives.

Individual threats:

  • Malware is often simple, low-cost and difficult to trace.
  • A lot of malware, for example, is manufactured in China, and there is reported collaboration between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Chinese universities to train hackers.
  • But when a cyberattack is actually launched by either the government or individual, there is often no real consequence because of the anonymity it offers.

Combatting cyberwarfare:

  • The US recently released a report from its Commission on Cybersecurity with recommendations to shore up defences.
  • One of the most important recommendations is to build relationships of trust between the government and private sector.
  • In addition, governments must maintain priority investments in technology, science, and research and development (R&D) in the cyber sector.
  • Innovation is of paramount importance given the increasing complexity and sophistication of the attacks — the US has been investing heavily in new Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies to be able to automatically identify cyber threats and also launch cyberattacks against adversaries.
  • India activated a Defence Cyber Agency last year. But much more needs to be done.

Source:”Hindustan Times”.


Cyberwarfare is here and poses a fundamental threat to both institutions and individuals, there has to be a concerted government-driven long-term strategy to counter it. Elaborate.