2011 & Beyond: Stakes Rise in Cyberwarfare

By Joshua Philipp, The Epoch Times
December 27, 2011 3:39 pm Last Updated: October 1, 2015 2:55 pm
Cyberwarfare waged by state actors is gaining recognition as a serious threat to both national security and economic interests. (Courtesy of U.S. Department of Defense)

Many of the events that defined 2011 will not dissolve into history when the calendar turns the page. The events that were set in motion this year will continue to play out and shape the year to come. The Epoch Times recaps pivotal moments and movements around the globe that are sure to make the headlines again in 2012.

In early December 2010, the hacker collective Anonymous Operations began launching attacks against several major websites, including PayPal and MasterCard, in retaliation for actions against information leaking website WikiLeaks. Although cyber-attacks against major companies had been common prior to that, the high-profile attacks brought the realities of cybersecurity into the spotlight.

Meanwhile, the power of cyber-attacks in both military action and espionage became a global reality. The Stuxnet computer worm found its way into industrial systems around the world, but more than half the computers it infected were in Iran, where it was able to physically destroy centrifuges from nuclear enrichment programs. Meanwhile, the Chinese regime’s use of cyber-attacks for espionage and economic warfare hit headlines with several major attacks—including Operation Night Dragon for business espionage, Operation Aurora, which tried gaining access to Google email accounts, as well as attacks against government weapons contractors.

Cybersecurity has now become a key focus of governments and businesses around the world, with President Barack Obama introducing both national and international cyberstrategies. The Department of Defense has also officially ruled that a state-sponsored cyber-attack could be grounds for military retaliation.

In the coming year, cybersecurity will likely grow as a concern both nationally and internationally. Governments globally are trying to close security holes that could impact critical infrastructure—finance, water supplies, and energy plants—yet because this often impacts digital privacy, it is grounds for heavy debate. 

State-run cyber-attacks will likely continue to grow. Meanwhile, cyber-attacks by hacker collectives will likely have less impact on large companies and government agencies. Many of these attacks were very basic and took advantage of very simple security holes. The concern will be whether these groups can grow in sophistication.