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CAN THE DEVELOPMENT
OF THE CYBER WORLD
// Aapo Cederberg
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has permanently changed the European security system. The question arises as to whether the war could have been predicted or even prevented. When analysing Russia’s goals for the war, it should be stated that prevention would not have been possible. Although Ukraine and Europe had prepared for war in many ways, few believed it would actually start. The horrors of the war of aggression and destruction fill the daily news, and in particular the civilian victims of the war and the gruesome war crimes that hurt all of us.
However, there is a lot going on in the war that we do not see or understand. Battles take place on land, at sea, in the air and in the cyber environment. This war is the first large-scale war that is also being fought actively on the “cyber front”. All these elements of warfare are interdependent. Therefore, they should not be examined as separate elements. Instead, one should study the war as a whole, so as not to draw the wrong conclusions from which future developments and the outcome of the war are predicted.
Are you wondering when cyberattacks turn into cyber warfare and cyber security into cyber weapons? Drawing the line is difficult and there are definitely plenty of different definitions and schools of thought. The simple definition is that when there is a kinetic war involving the use of cyber weapons, it can be classified as cyber war.
The targets are both military and civilian, as in a traditional war of annihilation. The attacker seeks to destroy the opponent’s vital targets by any means possible. The defender, on the other hand, seeks to protect their own operations and the vital functions of civil society through effective cyber intelligence, protection and also through active actions, i.e. cyber attacks. Indeed, Ukraine seems to have succeeded in its cyber defense surprisingly well. The support of the United States and European countries has played a major role in providing intelligence and supporting cyber defense.
The importance of anticipation is growing in the strategy work of both state actors and private companies.
The general perception seems to be that Russia has not been particularly successful in its cyberwarfare. There are probably many reasons for this, but it can also be an illusion. Only after the war ends can reliable conclusions be drawn to predict the role of cyberwarfare in future wars. The most powerful cyberweapons are disposable in nature, meaning they can only be used once and are therefore carefully considered and targeted.
Cyber operations are also closely intertwined with electronic warfare. Ukraine receives considerable support for electronic warfare, especially for electronic intelligence. This seems to limit Russia’s ability to carry out cyberattacks as part of physical warfare. Therefore, it seems likely that cyber operations will be kept in reserve in case the war expanded regionally in Europe. On the other hand, Russia has a great need to use cyberattacks as part of its hybrid operations to influence decisionmakers in EU and NATO countries.
Prediction is strongly based on historical data and its careful analysis. The lessons of this war will help us predict the cyber world better and identify the signs of cyber warfare in advance. The importance of anticipation is growing in the strategy work of both state actors and private companies. We have certainly already learned from this war that intelligence should be taken seriously, whether it is cyber attacks or traditional warfare.
The responsibility of decision-makers is emphasised, and understanding needs to be built because anything is possible and part of our “new normal”.
Managing Director and
Founder of Cyberwatch