As global feuds arise, expect increased cyberwar, says NATO analyst

Cyber disruptions will continue to impact geophysical conflicts.
Cyber disruptions will continue to impact geophysical conflicts.

Expect further disruptions online from nation-state actors, says a NATO analyst who has been studying spikes in malware traffic in regions of conflict.

Cyber war is catching up with physical conflict as a means of disrupting adversaries, says Kenneth Geers, a former FireEye analyst and now ambassador at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. In a discussion with Dark Reading, previewing a talk he will present at next month's Black Hat, the Ukraine resident who spent 20 years in the U.S. government, explained that the Ukrainian presidential election in 2014 was "thoroughly hacked" by a pro-Moscow group to pollute election results. The miscreants were able to destroy software, fry hard drives and undo router settings.

While the election commission was able to restore from backups, the attackers proceeded to post phony election results that appeared to be trustworthy and were reported in the media. The point, says Geers, is that techniques such as these "degrade the integrity of the government.”

Geers's warnings about cyber disruptions that could impact geophysical conflicts met a good deal of skepticism when issued two years ago. Now, he is even more certain that as conflicts arise, malware traffic experiences a spurt. Not only that, he said, so too do sophisticated cyberattacks.

For those who argue against the possibility of a "Cyber Pearl Harbor," he pointed out that these incursions give adversaries breathing space, serve as a strategic maneuver and distract attention from more pertinent matters.

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