What is Cyber Warfare?

Definition for Cyber Warfare

A definition of Cyber Warfare is not easy. In fact definitions for Cyber or Warfare are both under debate. We will start with a simple definition of Cyber or Cyberspace. For the purpose of this chapter, we will frame the definition in the context of military environment. DoD defines cyberspace as the “notional environment in which digitized information is communicated over computer networks”. There is no official definition for just “cyber.” When you hear it by itself it could mean cybersecurity, computer network operations, electronic warfare or anything to do with the network. It is important to agree on what it means, for this book it will generally refer to cyberspace and be discussed in terms of computer network operations (attack, defend, and exploit).

The National Military Strategy for Cyberspace Operations defines cyberspace as the “domain characterized by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum to store, modify, and exchange data via networked systems and associated physical infrastructures”. DoD (Joint Publication 3.0 Joint Operations 17 September 2006 Incorporating Change 2, 22 March 2010) defines cyberspace as a “global domain within the information environment. It consists of the interdependent network of information technology infrastructures, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processors and controllers.” Within cyberspace, electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum are used to store, modify, and exchange data via networked systems. Cyberspace operations employ cyberspace capabilities primarily to achieve objectives in or through cyberspace. Such operations include computer network operations and activities to operate and defend the Global Information Grid (GIG).

United Nations (UN) defines cyber as “the global system of systems of Internetted computers, communications infrastructures, online conferencing entities, databases and information utilities generally known as the Net.” This mostly means the Internet; but the term may also be used to refer to the specific, bounded electronic information environment of a corporation or of a military, government, or other organization.

For a definition of warfarewe cannot turn to an authoritative source. TheUNdoes not have a definition, so we will default to the two historical standards for military doctrine: On War, the exhaustive work documenting tactics during the Napoleonic War period in 1873 and The Art of War a more condensed version of how to conduct warfare composed in sixth century BC. Are these definitions applicable to what is happening on the Internet today? Can these historical concepts be applied to the virtual world? Is the military perspective the right one to look at this problem through? The answer to all questions is a declarative: YES. That is where this book becomes applicable: to help solidify what cyber warfare means. First there is no governing body to determine what definition we should use, so the definition is normally based on the perspective of the person speaking. Governments, finance companies, Internet providers, international corporations, organizations with a specific cause, and lawyers all give us a different answer. As for historical concepts, there are many that are based on geography which no longer apply, but most principles and practices can be modified to be useful when it comes to the new World Wide Web’s Wild West. Finally, we think if we are going to use the term warfare we should use the military perspective but throughout this book we will take the time to explore the other options because our systems are connected to the same battlefield on which the nation states are fighting!

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