The final installment of this 3 part series on BBC Radio 4 focuses largely on broadcasting accounts of real life cyber warfare taking place on virtual battlefields across the world.
The program opens with a recount of troublesome events in Estonia in 2007. It describes a diplomatic incident with Russia and riots in the street. What really set it apart however, was the coordinated cyber attack that took place simultaneously.
In 2010, an attack targeting Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz highlighted how real virtual warfare is. John Bumgarner a US former intelligence officer tells the program: “Not every target can be attacked with cyber. The Iranian nuclear power plant or the Iranian underground facilities could be attacked with cyber”. He further explains that the choice of weapon in this particular attack, Stuxnet, meant that it was not only cost-effective but difficult to attribute.
Speaker Eugene Kaspersky, expert in anti-virus capabilities, appreciates that Stuxnet was the most sophisticated and expensive ($10 mil) malware at that time. This indicated the assault was not a mere criminal attempt, but a state coordinated effort.
The next account is of August 2012, when oil giant Saudi Aramco saw 30 000 of its computers rendered useless. The files were over-written and replaced with an image of a burning American flag. The fact the attack was inflicted on one of America’s closest allies and an enemy of Iran left room for speculation.
In the second half, the program discusses how cyber space has become increasingly militarized. Over thirty countries, Britain included, are increasing their cyber security presence at an exponential rate. Proving that combat using code rather than guns is now a reality.The launch of this series by the BBC is testament to the fact that cyber threats are very real and cannot continue to be ignored, or remain purely the concern of the elusive ‘cyber geeks’. The reality is that the unseen attacks happening in a virtual space can very quickly impact on aspects of everyday life. Simple things such as using the ATM, accessing online news, or as it’s been the case in Estonia, dialling the emergency services 112 can be rendered impossible after an attack. Surely this proves that we should consider how we operate and share information online as much of a security matter as shielding our pin or fitting a lock on the front door.