What are Cyber-Weapons?

“What are cyber-weapons? Instruments of code-borne attack span a wide spectrum, from generic but low-potential tools to specific but high-potential weaponry. This distinction brings into relief a two-pronged hypothesis that stands in stark contrast to some of the received wisdom on cyber-security.

Maximizing the destructive potential of a cyber-weapon is likely to come with a double effect: it will significantly increase the resources, intelligence and time required for development and deployment – and more destructive potential is likely to decrease the number of targets, the risk of collateral damage and the political utility of cyber-weapons…”

Cyber-Weapons” by Dr. Thomas Rid & Peter McBurney

Dr. Thomas Rid (War Studies, King’s College London) has published another exceptional article on cyber warfare. This publication, titled “Cyber-Weapons” is inspired by some of the feedback from his recently published article, “Cyber War Will Not Take Place.”

In this publication, Dr. Rid continues to expand on what constitutes a weapon, and how this relates to the terms and technologies of Cyber War. As with his previous article, this is a very refreshing and enlightening look at past and current cyber events. Dr. Rid masterfully separates the truth about cyber weapons and their capabilities from common misconceptions.

One section of the article that really captured my attention was the discussion of next generation Stuxnet type code called “Learning Weapons”. Cyber Weapons that can learn on the fly. They will observe and evaluate the environment autonomously and then take a course of action on their own.

This is an excellent read and definitely worth your time.

In the days and hours leading up to the afternoon of 19 March 2011, air force planners in France, Britain, and several other NATO countries were frantically preparing an imminent bombing campaign against military targets in Libya. In Washington on that same March weekend an unusual discussion took place between the Department of Defense and the White House. Should America deploy its cyber arsenal against Libya’s air defence system? After the Pentagon’s generals and geeks had briefed the president on the options, he decided that, No, the time was not ripe for cyber weapons…

Cyber-Weapons” – Check it out!

(Thomas Rid & Peter McBurney (2012): Cyber-Weapons, The RUSI Journal, 157:1, 6-13)

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