It is the digital age, and there is a new type of warfare. Cyberwarfare refers to the utilization of modern technologies and software to mount politically-motivated attacks against information systems; in the past, it has successfully brought down websites, networks, services, financial systems, data warehouses, and more. It is increasingly used by nation states, terrorists, extremist groups, “hacktivists,” and other criminal organizations as a method to create disruption or damage.
Politics and geopolitics has moved online. Many of the revolts and international headlines we read today involve some aspect of the web, whether directly or indirectly. Digital mediums can be used by the government to repress citizens in countries such as China and Saudi Arabia; it can organize and raise awareness for national or political uprisings, such as the case in the Arab Spring; it can be used to access and release confidential information, such as the case during the US presidential election. Cyberterrorism, cyberwarfare, and cyber espionage has become one of the most pressing national and international issues.
- Sochi Olympics, 2014: Athletes’ cell phones were compromised within minutes of landing at the airport
- Viber, WhatsApp, Twitter, and other apps are commonly used to locate terrorist targets in Syria. As a counterpoint, recruitment for terrorist groups such as ISIS is largely done online as well.
- Use of bots/humans to broadcast government agenda in Saudi Arabia, religious or government dissent has led to bloggers being flogged and sentenced to prison
- Kuwait enacted mandatory DNA collection from citizen to build a national genetic database
- China and Russia are actively working on their private internet
Trying to control the cyber landscape is near impossible. For instance, the sheer number of mobile applications designed for everything from communications to social media to fitness tracking make up a global marketplace that isn’t ready for innumerable threats. Individuals disclose their personal information across multiple platforms and apps that provide vastly different levels of privacy and security.