Chapter 6
Cyberconicts, Cyberwars
and Cyberpower
6.1 Understanding the context
Cyberattack: a question of terminology and meanings
The term “cyberattack” can have several meanings, depending on the tar-
gets, victims, motivations of the perpetrators, scope, impact, and the conse-
quences of the attacks. Some have minor impacts and can often be attributed
to straightforward delinquency, while others could have drastically negative
effects on people, organizations, and states, and could be linked to crime, ter-
rorism, or war.
When combining the impact on a specic target with the generic conse-
quences of an attack in the wider world, it is possible to develop a classica-
tion of cyberattacks having signicant negative impacts on society. Such a
classication could take the form of:
attacks on public safety through the manipulation of the ICT systems
involved in the management or control of vital infrastructures (ight,
railway or subway control systems, water or ood supply control sys-
tems, health control systems, nancial and banking control systems,
electricity grid control systems, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisi-
tion (SCADA systems). This category also includes all types of attacks
on the ICT systems and infrastructures used in disaster recovery plans;
attacks on national defense systems involved in offensive or defensive
military activities;
144 Cyberpower
attacks on e-government systems;
attacks that lead to the manipulation of information (cyberpropaganda),
to intelligence gathering, and to electronic espionage;
attacks involved in economic crime;
attacks involved in the harassment of people;
attacks combining elements of two or more of the above.
Because of the multiple interdependencies of ICT infrastructures, it is
essential not to limit the analysis to one single perspective when considering
the impacts of cyberattacks (Figure 6.1). These attacks could have several
separate or domino effects, and human life could be endangered even if the
cyberattack is not innately designed to do so. It is always difcult to identify
such dependencies precisely in order to be able to control potential collateral
damage, to understand the long-term effects, or to prevent the dramatic socio-
economic effects of cyberattacks.
Very often the use of the word “cyberattack” instead of “cybercrime” indi-
cates that the attacks were mostly directed against the computer and telecom-
munication systems involved in vital infrastructures that have a serious role to
play in the economy, the safety of people, the sovereignty of a state, and the
military and defence systems of a country. These attacks are offensive actions
that alter, disrupt, manipulate, degrade, or destroy data, information and com-
munication infrastructures (hardware or software). They could impact the
Figure 6.1 Interdependencies of ICT infrastructures.
Cyberconicts, Cyberwars and Cyberpower 145
whole of society by destabilizing, for example, the efcient operation of the
economy or of governmental services.
In other circumstances, when a cyberattack leads to specic offences, it is
most commonly described as a cybercrime. Such activities are typically char-
acterized by, for example:
offences against the condentiality, integrity, and availability of infor-
mation and communication resources, including illegal access to com-
puters (by computer hacking or wiretapping, or by deceiving internet
users by spoong, phishing or password shing), computer espionage,
computer sabotage theft, destruction of data, intelligence gathering,
offences against people, such as the computer-related online grooming
of children, searching for potential victims, human trafcking, etc.;
computer-related economic traditional crimes, such as frauds, manip-
ulations, abuse of credit cards, forgery, swindles, extortions, money
laundering, etc.;
content-related offences, such as child pornography, racism, xeno-
phobia, soliciting, inciting, providing instructions for and offering to
commit crimes ranging from murder to rape, torture, sabotage and ter-
rorism, cyberstalking, libel and dissemination of false information,
Internet gambling, etc.;
offences related to the infringement of copyright and related rights,
such as the unauthorized production and use of software, data, audio,
and video, etc.;
offences related to espionage.
For an attack to be identied and treated as a crime action that breaks a law,
that law by denition must already exist. But cyberattacks exist without any
laws to qualify them. The term cyberattack covers a broad range of activities
and is independent of any specic classication of offenses. Terms and deni-
tions are not yet well dened or broadly accepted, but it seems that an agree-
ment has been reached for presenting cyber attacks by describing their modus
operandi (the way a cyberattack is performed and its vectors of propagation),
the consequence and impact on relevant security criteria, and their generic and
global impact.
At the same time, the word cyberattack can also be understood as referring
to a military weapon. ICT infrastructures, information/disinformation pro-
cedures, and cyberattack-related tools are increasingly being linked to war-
making capacities that contribute to developing the potential for cyberwarfare.

Get Cyber Power now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.