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Cyber warfare

Cyber warfare definition

Cyber warfare is a broad term that includes uses of various cyber tools to cause harm and disrupt computer systems and infrastructure of an enemy state. The term includes things like hacking, cyber attacks, activism, espionage, cybercrime, terrorism, and propaganda. Motivations for cyber warfare also vary — from defacing government websites to spreading political messages to debilitating an entire country's infrastructure with a cyber attack. Cyber warfare actions can be carried out by governments and civilians alike.

Cyber warfare examples

  • Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine was under near continuous attacks from hackers. Despite the aggressor’s denials, many believe that the cyber attacks originated from Russia and may be sanctioned and supported by The Kremlin.
  • In 2020, hackers linked to China infiltrated the Vatican's computer networks ahead of negotiations between China and the Vatican. Targets also included the Catholic diocese of Hong Kong and the head of the Hong Kong Study Mission, who was considered Pope Francis’ representative to China.

Example of preparing for cyber warfare attacks

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) published a Cyber Strategy focusing on protecting, securing and defending DoD’s own networks and the nation as a whole. The strategy’s basis are five pillars:

  • Build and maintain ready forces and capabilities to conduct cyberspace operations.
  • Defend the DoD information network, secure DoD data, and mitigate risks to DoD missions.
  • Be prepared to defend the U.S. homeland and U.S. vital interests from disruptive or destructive cyber attacks of significant consequence.
  • Build and maintain viable cyber options and plan to use those options to control conflict escalation and to shape the conflict environment at all stages.
  • Build and maintain robust international alliances and partnerships to deter shared threats and increase international security and stability.

Watch it explained: Cyber warfare facts