Cyberwar is here and now
If you want to know the true state of the internet, don't listen to politicians and pundits. Ask the computer security professionals.
According to 87% of 517 IT security professionals who attended the RSA Conference 2019, the world is currently in the middle of a cyber war.
“It’s clear that security professionals feel under siege,” said Kevin Bocek, vice president of security strategy and threat intelligence at Venafi. “With the increasing sophistication and frequency of cyber attacks targeting businesses, everyone is involved in cyber war.”
Last year saw the two biggest DDoS attacks in history, reaching 1.35 and 1.7 terabits per second. Of course, cybercriminals, not the Kremlin, is responsible for the lion's share of these attacks.
Cybercriminals are increasingly motivated by data theft, rather than solely direct monetary theft. Of all attacks in 2018, 42% were motivated by access to information, 41% by financial profit, 15% by hacktivism, and 2% by cyberwar, the report found.
Washington went officially on the offensive last fall. This was only an official move. Edward Snowden proved that we've been on the offensive since 2001.
This means these agencies will be able to go after the overseas sources of attacks more proactively. These activities can be risky, as cybercriminals may position their attacks from a neutral third party or a non-hostile country, making it more complicated for the U.S. to engage in cyber battles. These back-and-forth attacks can also cause damage to the infrastructure that supports the internet, particularly telecommunications providers.
There's no evidence that offensive cyberattacks achieve anything, and the fuzzy line between state actors and private actors reminds me of the disastrous GWOT.
OTOH, we've likely attacked Venezuela recently.
In the case of Venezuela, the idea of a government like the United States remotely interfering with its power grid is actually quite realistic. Remote cyber operations rarely require a significant ground presence, making them the ideal deniable influence operation. Given the U.S. government's longstanding concern with Venezuela’s government, it is likely that the U.S. already maintains a deep presence within the country's national infrastructure grid, making it relatively straightforward to interfere with grid operations. The country’s outdated internet and power infrastructure present few formidable challenges to such operations and make it relatively easy to remove any traces of foreign intervention.
Widespread power and connectivity outages like the one Venezuela experienced last week are also straight from the modern cyber playbook.
"Winning" a cyberwar would be a Pyrrhic victory for the U.S., because it could also destroy the internet in the process. We could cripple our high-tech industry.