Cyber war

[I]t is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for purposes of spying and thereby they achieve great results. Spies are a most important element in war…

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Information Warfare

Information has always been a crucial resource in warfare. In ancient times, knowledge about sources of food and water, an enemy’s resources, its position and mobility, and its plans and strategies were crucial to success. Even with the advent of modern weapons systems, communications systems, and transportation, appropriate use of these resources still depends upon high quality and up-to-the-minute information. Because terrorists seek a leverage advantage in their actions, they naturally attempt to gain the upper hand in information warfare. The advent of modern information technologies and particularly, the Internet have heightened the need to understand information warfare in all of its forms.  Image: 2011 Aerospace and defence firms face cyberthreats from a wide range of sources.

Video: Motion designer Patrick Clair tells the story of Stuxnet, "a Microsoft Windows computer worm discovered in July 2010 that targets industrial software and equipment." Unlike many viruses and worms, Stuxnet was designed with a specific target — Siemens Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems — and left any other systems unharmed. Stuxnet could then increase pressure in nuclear reactors and turn off oil pipelines, all the while showing monitors everything was fine.

Leveraging Technology

Electronic information technologies have become central to modern industrialized societies. Such technologies lie at the heart of the economic systems, transportation networks, communications networks, and other critical systems necessary to efficient functioning of a modern nation. It is these systems that terrorists now attempt to leverage. Because a goal of modern terrorism is often disruption, rather than mass destruction, the coordinating function of information technology systems provides a perfect target for attack.[1]

For More on Attacks on Infrastructure

For More on Attacks on Electrical Grids

For More on Attacks on Water Supplies

For More on Economic Terrorism and Extortion

[1] See From MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) to MUD (Multilateral Unconstrained Disruption): Dealing with the New Terrorism. ( visited 30-AUG-09)

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About the Contributor

Lawrence Husick

Lawrence Husick is a Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Center on Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security where he concentrates on the study of terrorist tactics and...