For years there have been talks of covert operations on the internet. Whether it was the governments of China, the USA, or Russia, there has always been suspicion that something was going on out of sight of the public eyes. There were just too many high profile targets attacked on every side but yet no one was admitting to be the one doing it. Well the other day all of that changed.
A few days ago, the New York Times came out with a story that claimed it had people deep inside of the current white house administration who admitted that the Stuxnet worm was an operation set forth by the American government. And while the New York Times has had some questionable reporting in the past (in my opinion), when it comes to a story like this, they are putting their reputation on the line. So you can safely assume that the story has been vetted thoroughly. While no-one in the white house has come out officially and said that they were the ones who did it, it is pretty much assumed that the story is true. And now people are starting to wonder what the consequences of all this is going to be?
Before we go further we should explain what Stuxnet is for the people who do not know. Stuxnet was a virus that was made to be able to disrupt some of the nuclear facilities in Iran. It gained notoriety because it was one of the few attacks that was actually able to harm a physical system. It was able to cause centrifuges to fail and take months to be replaced.
Will there be any consequences?
While this is the most official statement we have ever gotten from a major country when it comes to cyber war, it is already assumed that we are in the middle of a cyber war already. This is just a salvo that got loose and made it to the public eye. We have already seen plenty of examples of different governments and state sponsored hacking. For a good example, look at the the attacks that happened at Google a few years ago. It was proven that someone from the Chinese government was not only hacking Google computers for secrets about the company, they were also trying to find out email communications between certain dissidents that China was trying to keep an eye out for.
And you can take a look at a couple years ago with Russia and their mini cyber war with the government of Georgia. While most of the media assumed that it was just teenage Russian hackers trying to strike back for an insult, when some experts looked at it really closely they were able to tell that there was some government influence involved with the attack.
It is not just the major players that are involved in these types of cyber attacks. There have been some signs that Iran has been sponsoring hackers as well to go after foreign targets. In these cases it has been more vandalism than actual attacks on the system. The vandalism caused no real damage and was able to be wiped away fairly quickly. But there have been other hack attacks with Israel versus others in the region and vis versa.
So even though we came close to a confirmation with the Stuxnet attack, can you really say that it is the beginning of a cyber war? All we can really say now is that it is the escalation of one that has already been ongoing.