Would a cyberwar be possible on a global scale?

A few months back, as part of my post-grad studies, I had to look into the viability of electronic warfare on a global scale. This is part one of many posts that will revisit that work and expand on it where applicable and reduce parts of it where.


Information warfare is currently fought on two planes: first is the legal and diplomatic plane where Russia and China on one side, and United States and the Western world on the other are trying to pass globally acceptable resolutions on cyber arms control and the definition of, and use of information warfare. Second plane is technological, ‘cyber’ space where industrial sabotage and industrial espionage are increasing in frequency as well as in damages caused.

Electronic warfare has come to prominence with a number of high profile incidents in the last 12 months. WikiLeaks showed that super-empowered individuals can wield as much influence as the most powerful countries in the world. Operation Aurora gave it the name and ever since Advanced Persistent Threat has brought an activity that is generally not spoken of in decent company – industrial espionage – into the spotlight with its brazen disregard for international criminal law. In the background war of attrition and low intensity conflict is adding cost to doing business and in extreme cases mere presence on the Internet.

Whilst electronic war under current definition of war is highly improbable it is argued that this is not for the lack of conflict, but rather due to the widening gap between what is acceptable and defined as ‘war’ and the constant low-intensity conflict that is waged between United States and the highly connected and open Western world on one side and crime-friendly Russian Federation and highly closed China on the other side.

There is a dire need for clarification and widely accepted interpretation of existing international laws and treaties. That, however is long time coming.