What is A Cyberwar?

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Over the past month, quite a lot of people weighed in on the issue of what is, and what is not, a Cyberwar.   Here are some of what was said:


Winn Schwartau (yes, it is a real name), the person generally credited in creating the concept back in 1994, defined Information War as:

an electronic conflict in which information is a strategic asset worthy of conquest or destruction.

(Catchy, but I think too limited for today’s possibilities)


Another one of my respected colleagues, Bruce Schneier, called it

Warfare in cyberspace.

(I do not agree  about the "in cyberspace" part.  I think the definition needs to be much wider.)


The US Army weighs in with this…mouthful of a definition

The premeditated use of disruptive activities, or the threat thereof, against computers and/or networks, with the intention to cause harm or to further social, ideological, religious, political or similar objectives or to intimidate any person in furtherance of such objectives.

Wow, now in 25 words or less?


PC Magazine goes the extra mile by defining it as:

equal to information warfare : Also called "cyberterrorism" and "cyberwarfare," it refers to creating havoc by disrupting the computers that manage stock exchanges, power grids, air traffic control and telecommunications. While the term often deals with attacks against a nation, it may also refer to attacks on organizations and the general public. For example, devastating viruses may be considered information warfare.

(I disagree: one could have an information warfare by dropping leaflets, for example.  Nothing Cyber about that.)


The online dictionaries at Webster and at Reference.com:

an assault on electronic communication networks

(I don’t agree:  can an assault on a non-networked device, can be from an electronic device)


and Wikipedia calls it

the use of computers and the Internet in conducting warfare in cyberspace.

(Nope.  Same narrow definition)


So, I decided to try defining it too:

Cyberwar is the act of ongoing electronic attacks and reprisals carried out by nation-states against others.

Note that I define the players.  I believe that if it is not nation-states, it is not "war".  If it is, for example, terrorist, you could adjust it to call it a cyber guerrilla war, I guess, or Cyberterrorism, but not Cyberwar.


What do you think?