Like terrorism, cyber-warfare changes the rules of the game. Cyber-war penetrates every strata of society. The end user, whether individual consumer or commercial enterprise, is a potential victim. As Knapp & Bolton (2006) point out, cyber-warfare was once “commonly regarded as a military concern” but is now a total “societal issue” affecting non-military areas and especially commerce (p. 76). One of the arenas in which cyber-warfare plays out is, of course, identity theft. However, there are a host of ways cyber-warfare can impact the end-user from the large scale offensives terrorist organizations may wield to disruptions that are smaller in scope and yet equally as frustrating. Cyber-warfare presents tangible economic, social, and political risks that must be combatted creatively. Therefore, cyber-warfare provides opportunities for revolutionary strategies and policies.
The economic impact of cyber-warfare on end users is also the most quantifiable. Loss of assets, valuable information databases, and other measurable booty has a tremendous impact on the private sector. These losses in turn are felt by the consumer, the ultimate end-user whose daily life may be indirectly disrupted by cyber-warfare. Corporations are feeling the brunt of cyber-warfare, and are increasingly becoming direct targets of cyber crime. Sometimes cyber-warfare can be construed within the framework of traditional crime such as theft, but the techniques of cyber-warfare need to be understood with new vocabulary and a new framework. In fact, whole businesses are sprouting up in response to cyber-warfare including specialized cyber-warfare insurance providers. Increased costs of cyber-security are having a major impact on the economy (Knapp & Bolton 2006).
As Kelsey (2008) points out, the characteristics of cyber-warfare make it impossible to combat using traditional rules of war. New policies and procedures are needed to address digital terrorism ranging from corporate espionage to governmental sabotage. Cyber-warfare is not conventional war and should not be treated as such by law enforcement. Herein lies one of the political implications of cyber-warfare. Because cyber-warfare is trans-national, global efforts to prevent cyber crimes must be global in scope and cooperative in nature. Nations do have information warfare capabilities that can be harnessed preemptively as well as defensively (Knapp & Bolton 2006). However, to harness the capabilities of state-sponsored cyber warfare tools, the norms of neutrality need to be rewritten (Kelsey 2008).
Finally, the social impacts of cyber-warfare are in many ways similar to the impacts of terrorism. The nebulous fear from unidentifiable non-state actors has a tremendous impact on social life and how individuals use information technology. Consumers are concerned about the protection of private data, such as banking information. Cyber-warfare can potentially dismantle entire organizations, and disrupt essential services. Given the push to digitalize medical records, the health of human beings is also at stake.
Cyber-warfare offers potential for new and innovative strategies on the part of law enforcement, the military, and the private sector. Law enforcement responses to cyber-warfare will be among the most critical within localized jurisdictions, whereas trans-state responses to cyber-warfare will require the cooperation of multiple organizations. This makes responses to cyber-warfare politically tricky and potentially problematic. Combatting trans-state cyber-warfare requires also the cooperation of the private sector too. The private and public sectors must collaborate on creative ways of harnessing the power of information technology in cyber-warfare in order to protect the end user.
Kelsey, J.T.G. (2008). Note: Hacking into international humanitarian law: The principles of distinction and neutrality in the age of cyber warfare. Michigan Law Review.
Knapp, K.J. & Boulton, W.R. (2006). Cyber-warfare threatens corporations: expansion into commercial environments. ISM Journal.
Wik, M.W. (n.d.). Revolution in information affairs.
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