Cyber conflict and attacks are new and progressive technological threats that put information, networks and programs at risk to individuals and organizations looking to extract or interfere with information. Consequently, cyber security has developed to protect the integrity of these platforms and to secure critical information.
From worms and viruses to DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service Attacks) and APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats), in the past 25 years, the sophistication, impact and scale of cyberattacks have evolved significantly. Still, as cybercrime has become more sophisticated, so has the security against it.
The first cyberattack occurred in 1988 in the form of a computer worm, named after its creator, Robert Morris. The Morris worm spread a self-propagating virus throughout the Internet at a rapid and aggressive pace, successfully shutting down most of the Internet. Due to the underdevelopment of the Internet at this time, this initial cyberattack had little impact. However, if an attack of this scale were carried out today, there would be major consequences.
The 21st century’s reliance on technology has ushered in a new age of development and advances while also creating a space for a new generation of thieves – hackers and scammers. These people utilize their technological skills to hack and gather information through a wide variety of medias, primarily through emails. Their ability to gain access to certain information allowed them to interfere in elections, conduct industrial and commercial sabotage, as well as carry out attacks on American infrastructure.
In 2008, the databases of both Republican and Democratic U.S. presidential campaigns were hacked and downloaded by unknown foreign intruders. This was significant as the hackers – later determined to be the Chinese government – gained access to internal position papers and emails of top advisers. Their spying went undetected for several months until the FBI became involved and helped the campaigns better secure their networks. This would later reoccur by the Russian government during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
These are just a few instances in which hackers have interfered with campaigns and elections. Aside from the United States, there have been multiple occurrences in which other foreign governments have faced cyberattacks and threats to their national security. Cyber conflict, espionage and attacks will continue to become a growing threat that the world will need to be prepared for.
LET’S THINK ABOUT IT
Your SWAC leader will prompt you with questions concerning this idea:
Knowing that technology is continuously advancing, hacking is becoming more sophisticated and cyberattacks are a threat to national security – if you were a hacker, what companies or information would you target?
Express your thoughts and contribute to discussion with your SWAC peers! (Write your thoughts.)
Kahoot! Introductory Quiz
Kahoot! is an online Quiz platform. This small four-question quiz is to test the student’s prior knowledge of the JCPOA and nuclear warfare, introducing them to the discussion to come. The quiz does not require the proctor to have a Kahoot account in order to start. Students will use an electronic device in order to answer. The link is below; click START NOW and select Classic mode. After the Game PIN is generated, students will be able to join the session by accessing kahoot.it on their computer or mobile device. Begin the quiz once all students have joined! This activity shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.
Now is when the handouts should be passed out to students. This handout will cover an analysis of cyber conflict and, more specifically, the Mueller investigation. It is recommended that the handout be read aloud as a group rather than individually. Take some time after the reading to cover the material with the students and make sure that it’s been generally understood. Ask questions to students; get them to summarize what they’ve read and make sure that the students are engaged and understanding. The reading should take no more than 20 minutes.
We have two video resources below that will go over in more detail the current event portion of the handout and expand upon it. Following each link we’ve included a description of the video and possible questions that you can ask students to see what they’ve taken away from watching the clips. Each video clip is between 3 and 6 minutes; coupled with questions, this segment should take no more than 15 minutes.
Former NSA Hacker Reveals 5 Ways to Protect Yourself Online
This 3-minute video discusses five easy ways to protect yourself from hackers.
- Why is it important to secure your personal information?
- Do you think it’s worth it to secure your information on social media, or is it too tedious?
Cyberconflict: Why the Worst is Yet to Come
This video explains how cyber conflict is just beginning and that the threat will continue to grow in the coming decades.
– In the video, the narrator compares airplane development to the potential for cyberattacks and technology. Are there other examples that could also be used to communicate the threat of cyber conflict?
– Why is it important to understand that cyberattacks can be more than just hackers stealing passwords or turning off the power in certain states?
- After watching both videos and learning more about cyber conflict, how do you think the U.S. should progress in terms of cyber security?
- Do you think that cyber conflicts and attacks are more or less threatening than physical attacks (i.e., warfare) and why?
(This shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes – total estimated meeting time: no more than 1 hour.)
Brendan Sasso, “Report: China hacked Obama, McCain campaigns in 2008,” The Hill, June 7, 2013, https://thehill.com/policy/technology/304111-report-china-hacked-obama-mccain-campaigns
Ted Julian, “Defining Moments in the History of Cyber-Security and the Rise of Incident Response,” Info Security Group, December 2014, https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/opinions/the-history-of-cybersecurity/.