Advances in science and technology contribute to progress for the humankind on many issues. In general, however, this factor is also manifested in the emergence of new threats. In particular, we witness the accomplishments in the information technology field used for malign purposes. Experts already use the new term – cyberwarfare. This phenomenon refers to disabling of certain assets using virtual means, implying new level and scale of the information warfare. It is no secret that this factor constitutes a threat to the entire world. Therefore, we believe that is it the right moment to give it a profound thought.
Virtual Reality Viruses
It is a common knowledge that in modern world information plays a crucial role. This notion, in its genuine sense, shapes society’s sociocultural realities. Virtual reality – is no longer a phenomenon confined to physical boundaries of a computer display and linked to a certain individual. Now it is regarded as a factor that pushes the processes on the global scale. The cyberwarfare – the processes that poses an ever-growing threat is also closely associated with the virtual reality.
Successes of the developed nations in the information field played not the least of the roles in the perilous trends observed in the early XXI century. Not only that this veracity is concealed anymore, on the contrary, forecasts about its negative consequences are made. One of the factors troubling the humanity is skillful employment of information technologies by the radical factions. Today they are capable of waging a war in virtual reality with any country in the world. The magnitude of the problem has compelled the likes of the U.S., China, Russia and others to develop methods of confronting this menace. Yet, there is a significant factor that hampers the concerted efforts.
The problem is that information war between the greatest countries – cybernetic warfare – has acquired dangerous and large-scale content. Media addressed this issue on many occasions. There are also specific examples to back such claims.
The global impact of cyber threat was first recognized in 2010, after media reported on computer virus called Stuxnet, the worm that penetrated the computer systems. For example, Stuxner can identify computers that use SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) technology by Siemens. Once it reaches the target, it either disables it completely or creates a distorted image when it is impossible to determine how certain program would react once installed on the computer. In other words, a totally unpredictable situation (see: Дмитрий Конухов. Вакцина для атома: кибербезопасность АЭС / РСМД, 16 November 2015).
Stuxnet provoked a problem at Bushehr nuclear facility in 2010 which was previously not known to be using Siemens software. It is worth mentioning that Siemens technologies are widely used in industry and infrastructure; operation of oil pipelines, power plants, communication systems, airports etc. It is obvious that one such worm could paralyze global information systems (see: previous reference).
The situation with nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities is even more alarming. Disruptions of such operations could lead to mass casualties and disaster. Circumstances are also compounded by the fact that developers of such malicious worms are unknown. Nonetheless, the information released by the official circles of various leading countries reveal that developed nations fall into the category of primary suspects. In this context, one of the visits by the Chinese leader to the U.S. drew media’s attention.
5 Trillion-Strong Army: Towards Humanity’s Demise
China’s Xi Jinping first visited the United States in September 2015 – the visit figuratively dubbed by the media as a ‘cyber visit’. Although President Xi Jinping was there to attend the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, the issue of cyber security dominated the agenda of the talks with the official Washington (see: Павел Шариков. Си Цзиньпин в Белом доме – кибервизит / РСМД, 28 September 2015). The U.S. has repeatedly voiced concern regarding cyber threats emanating from China.
In his statement during the congressional hearing on 10 September 2015, Director of National intelligence James Clapper confirmed that China posed a serious threat in this field. Most importantly, the Chinese allegedly steal intellectual resources. They covertly acquire the ideas developed by the American companies and manufacture goods at lower prices, including advanced technologies and military products. Moreover, there are differences between the U.S. and China when it comes to Internet’s global governance. China backed Russian proposal at the UN regarding international management of Internet, while the U.S. opposed it (see: previous reference). Given all of the information above, chances of China and U.S. striking a deal on the issue of cybersecurity are slim. On the contrary, some news suggest that relations in this domain could deteriorate further.
America’s own strategy concerning the cyber threats is also poorly defined. There are some who oppose the program developed at the request of President Obama (see: Мэттью Кросстон. Зонтик против киберурагана: новый указ Барака Обамы по борьбе с киберпреступностью / РСМД, 10 April 2015; Павел Шариков. Американский CISA – публичный доступ к частному? / РСМД, 6 November 2015). Along with the political protests, there are also legitimate concerns of ordinary citizens as it relates to encroachment on privacy.
The lack of clear U.S. strategy on cyber threats relegates the issue of drafting a valid agreement of international relevance. Facts demonstrate that there are still significant differences between the U.S., EU, Russia and China. Washington constantly rejects propositions coming from Moscow and expresses its dismay with China’s performance. Meanwhile, America aims to ensure own cyber security through adoption of domestic legislature. That is why, according to experts, adoption of the CISA (Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act) in the summer of 2015 was no coincidence (see: Павел Шариков. Американский CISA – публичный доступ к частному? / РСМД, 6 November 2015). The bill was introduced by the Senate Intelligence Committee and its main cosponsors were Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Dianne Feinstein. Experts believe that CISA would help fill the gaps in the Patriot Act. Apparently, the U.S. do not just reject regulations suggested by others but also streamline domestic legislation.
Russia and China are also taking similar actions. Both had not joined the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime signed in 2001. Russia came up with own alternative draft that was naturally boycotted by the Western countries.
All of this demonstrates that in the environment of existing cyber threats the great powers consider installment of not the common security model but arrangements that best serve their self-interests. This leads to increasing expenditures in this field. Estimated $ 5 trillion, according to the media (see: Mahmut Sancak. 5 trilyon dolarlık siber savaş / “Habertürk”, 21 November 2015).
Building cyber armies is a trending topic of today. The great powers have long owned such elements. Now other nations are looking to create such defense systems that is a testimony to not ebbing but rising validity of cyber threats. Those who opt to disable the adversary through ‘civilized methods’, without shedding blood that is, could jump to realization of their plans at any moment, conveying the true essence of such terms as hybrid war, digital war, etc. so frequently used by the experts. All of this is a grave threat to the humankind that could entail grave consequences. The world indeed is witnessing a new perilous horizon.