Can cyber warfare prevent wars?

By Gunnar Westberg

Can cyber warfare prevent wars?

This is a call for information. An appeal to people who know more abou cyber warfare!

As long as there are armies the threat of war remains.

As long as there are nuclear weapons the threat of extermination of mankind from nuclear war remains.

It is sometimes said that nuclear weapons will be with us until we find something more effective.

Could cyber warfare be an alternative?

The U.S. together with Israel delayed the development of the uranium enrichment facilities in Iran through the use of a virus introduced into the centrifuges. Iran may have been behind a cyber attack on computers in Saudi Arabia that interfered with oil refineries and oil transport.

Can cyber warfare prevent a military attack? Here an attempt to illustrate the idea:

Today both the U.S. and China are rapidly increasing their military presence in the Western Pacific, particularly in the South China Sea. There are territorial problems between China and the countries in the region, some with military alliances with the U.S. There may be oil resources. The waters are of great importance for world trade, especially for China.

In a situation of a threatening military conflict between e.g. the U.S. and China in the area, we could imagine that China “invades” a selected part of a US computer network, bringing it to a temporary standstill with economic consequences. China may leave a characteristic hallmark on the virus, but could also choose to leave the U.S. guessing as to the origin. The intrusion could be seen as a warning to the U.S.: If you go further in your military activity we have the means to close down your computer networks and bring your economy to a standstill.

The U.S. might in this situation retaliate in kind with an attack on Chinese computer networks, but not with a major escalation. Neither partner wants a trade war. Negotiations may, finally, become the face-saving way out.

Cyber warfare could also be a way for a smaller nation to avert a military attack from a strong adversary. For instance, if the the U.S. threatens to bomb Iran, that country could make a cyber attack on U.S. oil production. If this results in increased threats from the the U.S., Iran could furtively indicate that it has resources to send a stronger attack from sites outside the country. Maybe the U.S. would then find the cost of an attack to be too high.

An advantage with cyber warfare is that it can be secret. No party would lose face.

We do not at present know how far the technology for cyber warfare has advanced. We do not know the balance between offensive and defensive capabilities in this area. We do know that the field is rapidly expanding. We have reason to believe that the big powers want to downplay this threat to their superiority.

I am surprised that so little discussion has been published in this field. I write my entry in order to find people in the know. Please help!

Is there a possibility that the threat of cyber warfare can prevent at least some wars?

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