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October 24, 2021

Cyber war?

First time when I heard about military units of cyber war was in the spring-summer of the year 1999, when NATO launched the bombing against Yugoslavia. Serbs acted in an organized manner – proving a previous training –, overcrowding the websites of the major newspaper of the Occident, and definitely of other targets with greater strategic importance besides the ones related to influencing the global public opinion.

Without any doubt, technological breakthroughs in the field have gained also military use over the years, so if Facebook, created in 2004, had 600 million users, causing headaches to the great military commanders, being a huge mass of influence at the global level, which internauts represented for the possible groups that were in an informational conflict, in 2010 we can talk about what they call “Internet of Things”, namely the possibility to electromagnetically connect, through specific apps, not only the nuclear plants and the national energy systems, but the facilities and the functioning of the individual residential equipment.

The first cyber assault was ordered in 2007 against Estonia, which drew NATO’s immediate attention on the possibility of using this area in the military confrontations, taking corresponding protective measures. Other events occurred over the following years drew attention to the great powers of the world on the fact that the cyber field is not regulated internationally, as the other possible spaces of the military confrontations (land, sea, air, outer space) were, so they acted correspondingly. In this regard, right in 2015, for instance, after a series of incidents publicly revealed, the US and China have decided to have a debate and to design a project of international regulation of this original space which penetrated the war field.

The recent events in the South China Sea seemed to slow, or even stop this important initiative. However, it’s obvious that regulating this area with a more and more visible military and strategical use cannot be postponed too long, and any use against the decided regulations may be considered an act of war or crime against humanity, depending on the nature of the aggression. And yet… The electoral confrontation of this year which takes place in the USA for the White House, with a lot of original tones compared to all the previous ones, has also included elements related to this lack of international regulations.

Early this month, the US officials have announced that the official Russia is behind some attempts occurred in the cyber field of intervention in the development of the ongoing electoral process from USA. Moreover, Vice-President J. Biden has launched a signal to Moscow. According to the press, Joe Biden stated for NBC, on October 16, that “We’re sending a message. We have the capacity to do it. It will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact./…/U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News the CIA ‘had already begun opening cyber doors, selecting targets and making other preparations for an operation. Moscow replied at the highest level that the important thing is what realities are revealed by the emails or documents published by the hackers from Wikileaks in a nebulous and publicly unknown itinerary, but articles blaming the Russian secret services for the incident have been published in the Russian media. Thus, V. Frolov wrote on October 11, in “The Moscow Times”, accepting that the Russian secret services could be at the origin of the attacks claimed by the American party, that “It is unlikely that the Kremlin really hoped to influence the results of the U.S. presidential election or viewed Trump’s victory as likely. This would have signaled a degree of incompetence that Moscow is still incapable of. Rather, the point of the exercise was to send a message that Russia mattered and could do bad things that the U.S., in Moscow’s view, has been doing to Russia. It worked, but not exactly how Russia hoped. It made Russia a negative issue in the campaign”.

The same author doesn’t exclude that exactly this unprofessional intrusion of some Russian officials in the cyber space, in the American electoral process, could be at the origin of the current situation of the suddenly cooled relationships between Russia and the US – the lowest temperature since the end of the Cold War – and that American reactions are expected, since President Obama couldn’t afford to stay politically inactive. He also suggests that “Moscow needs to find a way to defuse the crisis. Offering secret talks on permissible rules of cyber warfare and cyber intelligence collection might be one way to do it. Better managing its intelligence services would be another”. Only that meanwhile other developments have occurred, and they are extremely dangerous. The former Swedish Prime-Minister Carl Bildt, deeply involved in regulating the use of the internet at the global level, in order to support economic development and cooperation, referred to these developments in a note posted on Twitter on October 21, 2016: “Yesterday we saw the first test of the weaponisation of everything that’s coming if we don’t care. Serious”. The Swedish diplomat’s reference relates to the analysis performed by “New York Times” on the events occurred in an important area of the US territory on Friday, October 21, in the afternoon: “Major websites were inaccessible to people across wide swaths of the United States on Friday after a company that manages crucial parts of the internet’s infrastructure said it was under attack. Users reported sporadic problems reaching several websites, including TwitterNetflix, Spotify, Airbnb, Reddit, Etsy, SoundCloud and The New York Times”. The performed attacks were “bigger and more sophisticated” than in other occasion, being difficult to be stopped and causing a start of public panic. A security expert recently commented that sophisticated attacks against some important companies managing the internet in wide spaces can be noticed in the last 1 or 2 years, and These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well the companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down… We don’t know who is doing this, but it feels like a large nation-state. China and Russia would be my first guesses”.

Regardless of the conclusions of the US national security structures related to the recent cyber-attack occurred on Friday, there’s one certain fact.  By this huge attack – the map published by NYT, indicating the affected areas of the US territory is significant – a very sensitive border has been passed, regarding the use of cyber field in the interstate relationships (if it will be confirmed that a state caused them). It’s not about influencing the electoral process in the USA – the quoted newspaper shows that the voters in the presidential campaign will be discouraged to vote because they will consider that their votes will not be correctly evaluated and registered -, but rather about the fact that a unimaginable chaos can be so easily caused even to a country like USA.

And exactly passing this invisible border by the attack on Friday afternoon, which affected wide areas on the territory of the most powerful state of the planet in military and economic terms, indicates that the international situation has reached a level of danger that imperatively requires a quick relief.

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