Lucas Williams, Staff Writer


Is the Hacking of France the Beginning of a Cyberwarfare Trend?

In more cyberwarfare news, France was hit with a major cyber-attack Jan. 15, just a week after the attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters by two armed Islamic extremists. The head of cyber security for the French military, Rear Adm. Arnaud Coustillière, said the attackers were “structured” groups that included “well-known Islamist hackers.” Coustillière also noted that the first wave of this attack might have been in response to the solidarity march held in Paris the previous Sunday for Charlie Hebdo.

The French cyber-attack’s magnitude is one of the largest in recent history, with nearly 20,000 websites affected. Its first wave hit French military websites, with a more diverse selection of websites following. Most of the damage done, however, only restricted users from accessing the affected websites.

Chris Hemsworth stars in the new film Blackhat, which brings to life the reality of cyber warfare. PHOTO VIA GOOGLE IMAGES

Chris Hemsworth stars in the new film Blackhat, which brings to life the reality of cyber warfare. PHOTO VIA GOOGLE IMAGES

This cyber-attack in France comes after a notable hacking scandal involving Sony Pictures. December 2014, Sony suffered a major cyber-attack, which the North Korean government is accused of spearheading. Judging by these two very recent attacks and my pessimistic sci-fi imagination, cyberwarfare seems to be the warfare of the future. With cyberspace connections being integrated into more people’s everyday lives, a powerful, nationwide cyber-attack lasting even a few hours could wreak havoc on a country’s well-being and sense of security.

Many smaller countries and terrorist organizations are drawn to cyberwarfare because it is comparatively cheaper than conventional weapons and requires less manpower in its execution. Plus, it takes more people to defend against a cyber-attack than it does to perform one.

And now, the new film “Blackhat” exploits the public’s fear of a cyber-attack. The movie casts the ever-dreamy Chris Hemsworth as a convict enlisted by the FBI to find the source of a cyber-attack that hit Chicago and Hong Kong. Though many critics did not like the movie, security specialists have noted its accuracy in portraying hacking methods.

The release of “Blackhat” comes at possibly the most opportune time, following two major cyber-attacks. It couldn’t have been planned to coincide with these recent cyber-attacks, of course, but it may be the first in a long line of movies taking advantage of the public’s fear of cyberwarfare. In turn, the inflated drama and technical inaccuracies could feed into the American public’s fear and paranoia about the possibility of a cyber-attack. Most of us hear the word “hacking” and immediately vow to never log onto the Internet again — or at least for five minutes.

To be fair, this fear is partially justified. Just think of all the things that run on computers — traffic systems, banks, security systems. If any one of these networks were to go haywire under a cyber-attack, a nation could be thrown into a resulting fit of panic and paranoia. And I didn’t even mention all of the priceless family photos and flawless selfies stored on personal computers and internet-enabled devices.

It’s easy to underrate how powerful cyber-attacks could really be, especially for the general public (myself included), who knows very little about the extent and specific aims of cyber-attacks. For all I, an imaginative young American, know, the next world war could be instigated by hackers.

And even though it’s unlikely that the tried and true war tactic of killing people will ever entirely be retired, the future could see a shift to warfare in cyberspace. Hackers, get your keyboards. The time to use your skills for political power is almost here.