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Cyber Warfare: Reality or Box Office Hit?

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The specter of cyber warfare has reared its ugly head in the media again. Some experts seem to think that the future is here, and battles will be fought and won via the Internet. But how much of this can be considered actual warfare, and how much is hype? Randy Nash searches for a working definition of cyber warfare, looks at the historical profile of attacks, and discusses the potential of a devastating electronic Pearl Harbor.

The threat of cyber warfare has been brought forth again by the media; not only in news outlets but also in the entertainment industry. But is this threat real or imagined?

What Is Cyber Warfare?

To properly assess the risk, we first need a working definition of what cyber war is and how it might manifest. There is much disagreement about the term and its actual definition, and varying degrees in the types of cyber attacks that might be perpetrated. I think cyber warfare has some critical characteristics:

  • First, warfare is considered the process of military struggle between two nations or groups of nations. Warfare generally includes attacks against critical communications channels, and against the military and civilian population resulting in loss of life.
  • Next, the cyber aspect can be considered to refer to the realm of electronic communication.

So I think we can summarize the definition of cyber war as follows:

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