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Beyond Business

Cyberwar : The new global battlefield

Cyberwar: although it happens in a virtual space, its consequences are real. From now on, no need to use guns and bombs to disrupt a country; less noisy, cyberattack is just as efficient. So, how to face this new kind of war ?

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September 2007. A new kind of war occurred in Tallinn, Estonia. Less bloody, but just as effective and scathing than a traditional attack, this war unfolds on a new battlefield: the internet. Media, banks and government web sites were paralysed during four weeks. Thousands of computers from around the world flooded Estonian sites with requests, creating a traffic jam that effectively shuts the system down. 

Who’s responsible? Impossible to know with certainty but some suspect Estonia’s powerful neighbour, Russia, irritated by the removal of a monument to the glory of the Soviet Union.

Despite, the attack served as a lesson and NATO set up a cyberwar centre in Tallinn. However, by Colonel Ilmar Tamm own admission, it’s more a think tank than a defence centre (and let-alone an offensive centre). “Cybersoldiers are doing research and analysis (…) based on what happened in the past to try to see what would be the future visions”. Trying to anticipate the cyberattacks of tomorrow but also trying to have “a large institutionalized international organizational approach”, the only way to fight this threat efficiently, according to the President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

France is also a target of cyberattacks. In Paris, the new National Agency for the security of information systems watches over critical state infrastructure. Last year, cybersoldiers studied, analysed or countered 200 significant attacks. Patrick Pailloux, the director general, summarizes the different types of attacks: “there are attacks aiming to block systems called denial of service attacks. Then, some try to take control of computers either to steal information or to use the computer for other attacks”.

These new attacks threaten both security and economical stability. Governments have to consider the scale of this phenomenon and organize their actions. They still must define a doctrine of cyberwar to better coordinate civilian and military responses.

 

 

A report by Virgine Herz and Mounia Ben Aïssa

 

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