June 23, 2015
The media has recently been full, yet again, of stories about various forms of cyber warfare.
This usually involves lots of discussion of attacks on a country’s defense infrastructure by an unknown party, although quite often the perpetrator is very broadly hinted at or sometimes even explicitly stated.
It has all the connotations of ‘007’ and perhaps that’s why one eminent businessperson was recently heard explaining that cyber-war was a matter of national security that didn’t particularly involve business. Well, it would be nice if he was right but, in all probability, he was wrong.
What is Cyberwar?
The term “cyberwar” has been used to denote different things but, broadly speaking, it indicates an attempt by one state or interest group to inflict IT damage upon another. In some cases, it usually implies a direct IT attack upon things such as a military installation’s IT infrastructure to disable it — presumably as a precursor to a real physical attack. In others, the justification appears to be rather more related to intelligence gathering than necessarily a harbinger of a real war.
Of course, perhaps the major objectives of the parties engaging in this type of electronic warfare are largely political and propaganda oriented. It’s an attempt to show that they have the intellectual capability required to penetrate another country’s cyber defenses even if they can’t come close to matching them in things such as conventional military hardware.
Some people see this as an essential re-balancing of global power displacement. In other words, even heavy-hitters in conventional military terms, such as the United States and Russia, are potentially vulnerable to very small states or even terrorist groups who possess comparatively little by way of material resources.
Whatever the term cyber-war means in a given context, it is real and is very likely being conducted just as you are reading this article. How much of it is actually openly reported in the public domain must remain an element of speculation.
What does it Entail?
This is a hugely complex subject but in its simplest and most crude terms, cyber-war is all about getting into computer systems that should be closed to you.
Once you are in, what you do there becomes linked to your overall objectives, whether they are covert intelligence gathering or a desire to cause mayhem in the said system.
This is not million miles away from conventional hacking.
What does this have to do with business?
Warfare has never been exclusively about the acquisition of new territory or necessarily physically defeating an opponent’s armies. In fact, in many cases throughout history, warfare has been inexorably linked to economics.
Many past conflicts have started because states or rulers have sought to gain control of the commercial infrastructure and resources of somebody else or in many cases, to steal the secrets behind some of their production methods and technologies. Cyber-war is no different. Many states and groups may see no significant difference between gaining illegal access to another country’s IT defence infrastructure to gain military advantage and illegally accessing some of their commercial enterprises in order to steal.
So, cyber-war is perfectly capable of spilling over into the business organizations in any country.
That’s why it’s an important subject to take seriously and to get advice from highly qualified technical support experts in order to help make your installation as secure as possible.
The bottom line is simple — don’t assume cyber-war is something that only happens to governments and the military. You could be on the receiving end in your business — unless you do something about it.
Vikas Sood is the CEO of Server Sentry which helps small businesses in Melbourne get the most out of their business.