US and UK plan staged “Cyber War”

Ben Taylor

If you’re a child of the 80s, you may remember a movie, starring a very young Matthew Broderick, called “War Games.”

In the film, Broderick plays a young computer genius who unintentionally hacks into a military computer, almost starting a nuclear war as a result.

The film was released in 1983. That was 32 years ago, a number sure to make plenty of people suddenly feel rather old!

Cyber-WarZooming back to the present day, many of the things that those 80s films predicted for “the future” haven’t come to pass. To the disappointment of many, we’re not zooming around on the hover boards introduced by “Back to the Future.” However, what has come true is that “cyber war” has become a very real thing.

The Sony Incident

A perfect example of cyber war is the large-scale hack of Sony, which occurred just before Christmas.

Many embarrassing things were leaked, from celebrity salaries to entire unreleased films. The attack has been blamed on North Korea, suspected to have launched it in response to the forthcoming release of a spoof movie called “The Interview,” which portrayed the assassination of the country’s leader.

North Korea has denied responsibility, but has since experienced a significant Internet outage that many believe was in retaliation. The aftermath and finger pointing continues to this day, and at the time of writing, the New York Times is reporting that America’s NSA may in fact have already breached North Korea’s infrastructure before the Sony Pictures attack.

Simulated Cyber War

Regardless of who did what and when, it seems clear that breaching systems across borders will, in the future, play a significant part in the way war is waged. It’s not a huge leap of imagination to go from a hack at Sony Pictures to a hack of an electrical infrastructure or something similar that could really bring a country to its knees.

In response to the growing threat, the leaders of the USA and UK, Barack Obama and David Cameron, respectively, have announced they plan to arrange “cyber attack war games” between the two countries.

The first “game” will take place in the coming months and will apparently simulate an attack on the financial sector. Cynics could use this opportunity to point out that it’s clear which area of infrastructure seemed immediately most important to the leaders!

According to a BBC report, the “cyber cells” that will work on the mock attacks will comprise members of MI5 in the UK and the FBI in the USA.

This will perhaps disappoint those who had visions of Obama and Cameron sitting huddled over a command prompt, 1980s style. However, based on some of their recent pronouncements on IT security, this scenario would be at risk of resembling that cringe-making moment at Christmas when the grandparents “have a go” on Mario Kart.