In 2009, McAfee Labs published the virtual criminology report “The Age of Cyber Warfare.” At that time we received some surprised comments from incredulous people.
Since then, this area has evolved considerably. Today independent experts are no longer reluctant to predict government-sponsored military and industrial espionage or targeted cyberattacks causing physical damage. Cyberwar and cyberterrorism have become genuine threats.
The experts are now publishing their views. A draft manual outlining how existing international laws can be applied to conflicts in cyberspace was published by Cambridge University Press in September. Prepared by an international group of experts at the invitation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, the 215-page study “The Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare” examines existing international law that allows countries to legally use force against other nations, as well as laws governing the conduct of armed conflict. The rules of conventional warfare are more difficult to apply in cyberspace, making this analysis critical.
In October, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published a report that provides practical guidance to member states for more effective investigation and prosecution of terrorist cases involving the use of the Internet. “The Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes” is the first of its kind and was produced in collaboration with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force.
Events in the Middle East give us perfect examples of this field: the disclosure of credit card and account details of thousands of Israeli nationals (the UNODC report calls this an act of terrorism), malware targeting a wide range of Israeli government agencies, and a wave of cyberattacks affecting the communication networks on Iranian offshore oil and gas platforms.
On November 14 Internet conflict showed another face: Various media outlets claimed the “first Twitter declaration of war” when the Israeli Defense Forces announced a Gaza operation via a tweet from the @IDFSpokesperson account.
Later, the account confirmed that its first target, Ahmed Al-Jabari of the Ezzidine Al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas’ military wing, had been killed in the attack. A picture came with the tweet.
More disturbing, another tweet pointed to a YouTube video showing this military operation.
YouTube quickly blocked the video and claimed it violated its terms of service. Nonetheless, the video reappeared yesterday and is now available from a vast number of URLs.
Cyberpropaganda serves not only the Israelis. The Ezzidine Al-Qassam Brigades also have a Twitter account.
They have even directly responded to their attackers, promising revenge.
These recent events demonstrate that Internet is now at the center of many activities, the best and the worst.
As for the Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades, their website is now unavailable, perhaps under a DDoS attack.