Have we entered a new era of permanent cyber warfare?

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In a coordinated denial of service (DDoS) attack on Christmas Day, a hacker collective known as “Lizard Squad” disabled the online gaming networks of Sony’s Playstation and Microsoft’s Xbox One consoles.

Lizard Squad happens to be the same name of the hacker group who earlier this month targeted Sony’s servers, releasing troves of private data that revealed the inner petulance workings of a major corporation. Although Lizard Squad claimed responsibility on their Twitter account for this latest attack, even stating they have the “nation on strings,” it is yet to be confirmed whether or not the two attacks were committed by the same group.

The attack on Sony and Microsoft’s gaming servers are still ongoing, with only “limited” functionality available currently.

We are aware of this issue, and we’re working to find a fix ASAP! We appreciate your patience in the meantime, and we encourage you to retry signing in when you get a chance. We’ll update you as soon as we know more.Microsoft

Although the initial attack on Sony’s servers has been met with an alleged response by the United States government, who many assume is responsible for disrupting North Korea’s internet, there are a growing number of skeptics who believe that neither the US nor North Korea took any part in these attacks.

Allan Friedman, a research scientist at George Washington University’s Cyber Security Policy Research Institute, told me that, from a diplomatic perspective, it’s a smart strategy for the US to be overconfident in assigning blame for the cyberattacks. Beyond the politics of this particular attack, the long-term US interest is to discourage other nations from engaging in similar behavior. If the North Korean government continues denying its involvement, no matter what the truth is, and the real attackers have gone underground, then the US decision to claim omnipotent powers of attribution serves as a warning to others that they will get caught if they try something like this.Bruce Schneier

Although the sources of these attacks remain inconclusive, the increasing frequency of these attacks are no doubt certain, and in fact, seem to mark a new era of permanent cyber warfare.

According to the RAND Corporation, “Cyber warfare involves the actions by a nation-state or international organization to attack and attempt to damage another nation’s computers or information networks through, for example, computer viruses or denial-of-service attacks.” Clearly, this definition of cyber warfare fits the pattern observed this month, where international hacker collectives, world governments, and private corporations engage in sustained virtual warfare not unlike those described by visionary sci fi writer William Gibson, whose Neuromancer series depicts a world run by criminal hacker collectives, errant artificial intelligence systems and corrupt corporations.

As with all wars, be they in the physical or virtual realm, innocent civilians are always those who suffer the most. Although these series of hacks have not claimed the lives of individuals, our personal identities and private data have been, and will continue to be, greatly compromised.

(Featured image credit: dreamstime_xs_19140557.jpg)

(2nd image credit: U.S. Air Force Photo/Raymond McCoy)

About Author

Kristian strives to enlighten and entertain readers. In addition to his teaching and editorial responsibilities, he is working on a science-fiction novel that promises not to include exoskeleton suits and anemic aliens floating in mysterious vats of green-tinted goop.

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