Why YOU Should Be More Worried About A Cyberwar Than A Nuclear Attack
When you hear the word “WAR”, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Tanks… Soldiers… Explosions? Do you ever think about a Cyberwar?
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With the advent of the internet, people start relying more and more on their devices and online services. This has given hackers an opportunity to try to gain access to different vulnerable computer systems through which they can attack whomsoever they want, and possibly cause a nuclear-level attack from the comfort of their homes/offices. This does not only apply to independent hackers, but also to hackers working on behalf of the government to attack other countries/nations.
Cyberwarfare is becoming the new nuclear weapon, threatening millions of people. The only defense is a good offense. One attack can paralyze the world’s most developed countries.
Cyberwarfare is the use of cyber attacks against an enemy state, causing comparable harm to actual warfare and/or disrupting vital computer systems — Wikipedia
NOTE: ALL OF THE INFORMATION MENTIONED IS PUBLICLY AVAILABLE. REFERENCES TO ALL OF THE SOURCES USED ARE DONE AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Previous reports on cyber attacks
Part 2: Different tools and techniques used to perform such attacks
Part 1: Events
1 — Fancy Bear / 2014
A Russian cyber espionage group, Fancy Bear, performed a six-month-long attack on the German parliament. They had to be taken offline and according to IT specialists, an estimate of 16GB of data was stolen.
2 — Water Processing Plant / 2016
In early 2016, a water processing plant for drinking water in Florida was attacked remotely, giving hackers access to their computer system, where the hackers changed the composition of the chemicals used to purify water by increasing the levels of sodium hydroxide. Fortunately, this strange behavior was made aware of on time and the chemical composition was brought back to normal. Being left unnoticed could've been catastrophic
3 — Petrochemical Plant / 2018
The news was reported by the New York Times, that a petrochemical company with a plant in Saudi Arabia was attacked by hackers whose aim was to trigger an explosion; however, due to a mistake on the attacker’s side, the triggering of the explosion was unsuccessful.
4 — Attack on the US OPM / 2015
One of the largest data breaches to ever take place in the history of the United States took place in 2015 when the United States Office of Personnel Management was targeted by hackers working on the behalf of the Chinese Government. They were able to gain access to nearly 22 million records which included sensitive information such as related to the government employees.
5 — Russia-Ukraine Conflict / 2022
FortiGuard Labs were able to notice a new viper malware that was installed on several hundred machines to attack Ukrainian targets. KillDisk and HermeticWiper malware were also used to destroy data on several devices. Remote Manipulator System (RMS), a tool used to get control of devices remotely, was being distributed in Ukraine via fake “Evacuation Plan” emails.
Part 2: Weapons
Cyberwar is possible using Cyber Warfare (aka Cyber weapons). Some of them are:
1 — Cyber Espionage
Refers to gaining access to the enemy’s computer system in order to obtain sensitive information. This is accomplished by using tools such as:
I) Botnet (aka Bot Network): As the name suggests, its a network of hijacked computers that are remotely controlled by hackers that are then used as a group to perform different tasks such as sending numerous fake emails, hoping to manipulate the minds of vulnerable people and gain excess to their confidential and to perform a DDoS attack (Talked about later on in the article)
II) Spear Phishing: Well you don’t actually catch fish to attack others, but instead, gain access to certain individuals’ accounts by sending fake emails to targeted people (unlike spamming to everyone, which is done by botnets), trying to get excess to confidential information, which are then used to impersonate and spread false news and commands. High-ranking officials are some type of people that may be subjected to such attacks. In addition to this, sensitive information may also leak out such as secret wrongdoings of the government and exposing them in order to cause confusion and conflict in the society
2 — DDoS
A request is a message sent to a website, asking for required information which is then displayed on the user’s screen
When a website is flooded with fake requests, which can be done by botnets, it is then unable to process legitimate requests, preventing people from accessing important websites and services such as the government's official website, news outlets, banking services, etc.
3 — Attack On Electrical Power Grids
All of our devices run on electricity. No electricity, no connectivity. Cyber attacks on power grids minimize or stop the flow of electricity to people’s homes, power plants, factories, etc, by hijacking the control systems used to manage electrical processes and physical functions like opening and closing circuit breakers. This would cause many processes to come to a halt. This can be much more disastrous at times when the use of electricity is vital such as during winter, where people rely on devices such as heaters to warm themselves up. It also cuts people off from the internet, making them unaware of their current situation.
4 — Propaganda
Propaganda is when the attackers leak embarrassing truths or spread false information about their enemy, in order to create confusion in the public, making it difficult for the government to focus on both the possible protesting and the military attacks taking place on the ground. This can be done by Cyber Espionage
5 — Economic disruption
The modern economic system relies heavily on computers and the internet. Attacking services such as banks would make it difficult, to nearly impossible for people to retrieve the funds they need. This can be don't by previously mentioned ways such as DDoS and Electrical power grid attacks.
Cyberwar can be more deadly than you may think! An attacker can attack vulnerable services from the comfort of his home, without stepping on the battlefield!
“We worried for decades about WMDs — Weapons of Mass Destruction. Now it is time to worry about a new kind of WMDs — Weapons of Mass Disruption” — John Mariotti
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