CYBER-SECURITY SPECIAL SECTION
“Cyber-warfare capabilities will not replace traditional combat methods”
Cyber attacks against government sites in Israel and elsewhere have become a daily routine. Hackers mostly use primitive but effective techniques to simply overload the communications lines through massive simultaneous attempts to enter into these sites by enslaving innocent computers (Distributed Denial of Service). After one such attack in Estonia in 2007, and the destruction of Iranian uranium enrichment centrifuges in 2011 by the more sophisticated cyber worm known as Stuxnet, many Western governments became aware of this growing threat and began to set up national cyber protection.
Cyber-security is a wider concept than information or data security. Computers are embedded in each and every critical infrastructure, whether it be power production, water and food supply, communications or transportation. Penetration of these computers can paralyse those systems and cause physical damage of a sort that until now could only be caused by a military attack. So, a new type of war is emerging, and in this cyber-war a relatively small group of computer experts can paralyse a country without shooting a single bullet or a missile.
Cyber-security is therefore a necessity. The question now is whether it is already more important than traditional defence capabilities, and whether can one shift resources from one to the other?
Unfortunately, the growing capabilities of cyber warfare and defence will not replace traditional combat methods. This new realm will only provide more innovative tools to be incorporated in future wars, as cyber warfare is going to be integrated into traditional warfare.
Conventional modern weapons are computer embedded, and there is no way to operate a modern military force effectively without leaning heavily on Command, Control and Communication systems that are all of them controlled by computers. They also are the “brains” of smart bombs and control space assets from the ground. Cyber technology may harm these systems through the use of computers, and future wars will include brute force attacks as well as "soft" cyber attacks. The 2008 South Ossetia war between Georgia, and Russia showed us that these "soft" blows in cyber space may prove very painful in the physical space.
The author is Director of Security Studies at Tel-Aviv University and Chairman of Israel National Council for Research & Development.