If you have seen any of the 100s of documentaries on World War on Netflix/Prime/HBO etc. then you might be familiar with the draft and hundreds of thousands of men and women leaving home to travel to a distant land and fight. The defeat of the enemy was primarily driven by targeting key military and industrial capabilities to force them into submission. Fast forward to today and we are all quite familiar with the “unmanned drones” that are operated by an officer sitting in front of a computer with a joystick.
These drones are a simple example of how armed forces personnel sitting far away with a secured communication channel can conduct aerial missions. While this is a feat of engineering and technology, the future wars we talk about will be led using cyber warfare. According to Imperva, cyber warfare is defined as a series of cyber-attacks targeted at critical infrastructure and government machinery of a country. These could range from shutting down electrical grids to civilian-facing banking services.
In today’s world where we are ever dependent on technology, a simple technology outage could cause widespread frustration, panic, and economic damage. Think of the not-so-recent past (October 4th, 2021) when Facebook servers went down taking out Instagram and WhatsApp – you did panic didn’t you? Although we didn’t get that dopamine hit when we pulled down for a refresh, Facebook Inc. and several sellers on the platform did experience a loss of business. Apply this same principle to payment gateways and across the world, you have people with credit cards and no way of purchasing things.
On May 7th, 2021, Colonial Pipelines was hit by a ransomware attack that lasted 5 days and was resolved only when the company paid the hackers millions to release their systems. A ransomware attack is when a hacker plants code that stops you from using computers or systems unless you pay them a ransom and receive a decryption key. During those five days, Colonial Pipelines had to shut down their pipeline which led to fuel shortages and sky-high gas prices across the East Coast. There is still no public information on who the hackers were, but it is safe to assume they could be anywhere in the world and quite possibly working from home. 😊
With the current Russia-Ukraine crisis, there have been several incidents of Denial of Service (DOS) attacks. A DOS attack takes place when a computer system is purposely overloaded with more requests than it can handle and it results in denial of service to other legitimate users. Think of the computer system as a restaurant that can churn out about 50 dishes in an hour. Now someone with malicious intent can order about 200 dishes to completely overwhelm them for the next few hours thereby denying anyone else access or service at the restaurant. At least, in this case, the restaurant gets paid, but in a DOS attack, the system is rendered useless.
According to Politico, in January 2022, 70 Ukrainian government websites were disabled or defaced and the US did not formally attribute the blame to anyone. A few days later, Microsoft confirmed the presence of malware in the Ukrainian government systems that could shut it down at a moment’s notice but stopped short of attributing blame on anyone. However, on Tuesday, February 15th, 2022, the Ukrainian defense websites went down along with those of two of the major banks that operate in the country. This was found to be another DOS attack that the Ukrainian government accuses Russia of. An outage of banks and ATMs can lead to economic instability which could have serious consequences in today’s world.
While these examples may seem to exclude mass casualties, cyber-attacks can have disastrous consequences if attackers choose to shut down a power grid that supplies electricity to hospitals or if they shut down traffic lights and streetlights. As nations continue to beef up their cyber security and that of their critical infrastructure, we can’t help but point out that the next-gen warrior may not be your burly 6’5 Navy Seal and instead be a scrawny programmer sitting in his parent’s basement.
** This post has nothing to do with condoning or opposing war efforts but simply a critique of how future wars may be different with all due respect to all veterans and their families**
Fount of wisdom, insufferable know it all, make it go away are just some of the phrases used to define Melwyn. When he is not at his Consulting job, he spends his time reading about technology and current affairs.