We are reading and hearing a lot about cyber-warfare now. We hear the power grid has been under attack in Russia, the USA we hear is attacking parts of Iran networks and possibly poser grid and we hear the power grid in Russia has been under attack. It is a thinly secret now that the USA and Israel used Stuxnet to attack computers in Iran in the past that made the centrifuges used to do nuclear development go crazy. And all this is called cyber-warfare.
Cyber-warfare is attacks made by a nation or nation-state (could be things like ISIS, Al-Qaida, etc) against other nations or nation-states computers or networks using computers. A lot of what occurs we probably do not know about as this would be things that are kept secret. Sometimes there may not be attacks but the idea is presented that there may have been.
These attacks could be on military targets, such as stuxnet was to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It could be attacks to stop parts of the country from working to disable and do harm just like traditional bombing attacks are made. I would suspect if the power grid in Iran is under attack that it is similar to shock and awe was done thru traditional bombing in both Iraqi wars, which was to disrupt their communications and keep army units from contact with Bagdad. This is probably also part of what bin Laden was planning with attack on the World Trade Center as a lot of communications lines ran thru it (and as we unfortunately learned later that day the communication with the NYFD so firemen did not get orders to evacuate.
What all this does mean is the USA and other nations must work harder in protecting the cyber ways in to a lot of assets. We need to make sure our electrical system cannot be brought down by outsiders attacking and either shutting down equipment controlling or making equipment spin out of control. This includes nuclear plants and hopefully all the critical points are not on the Internet but there are other ways to get attacks done such as putting a program on an engineer’s home computer that gets on some type device, such as USB stick, she takes to plant and plus in isolated machine and it is infected.
What can we do as individuals to try to protect ourselves? One make sure that you do not fall for social engineering and allow somebody to get in a company’s computer thru shoulder surfing (watching you type a password), giving a password to a caller claiming to be your IT department, having infected portable devices, etc. This means have a current updated anti-virus on your machines, have an anti-spyware program (that is current) on PCs, having all updates continuously on your operating system (Microsoft and the FBI have been warning for weeks now there is a hole in Windows that there is a patch for all the way back to XP that is a major security threat, and having a updated running firewall on your machine (Windows firewall is a decent firewall that is free part of Windows).
There is a good chance that warfare may well go a bunch cyber in the future. It can be just as deadly as fighting with bullets and bombs. Cut the power to hospital and people die, make a oil refinery blow up and people die, do in electricity in this hot summers and with no AC and no way to get ventilation in today’s building and people die, mess with water treatment plants and water is no longer safe and available, etc.
The government (a long with companies) must do things to protect our infrastructure and keep us safe, but there are small things you can do to help also.