I have to admit – it is not my title but it caught my attention. Over the course of the last few years, the term “Cyberwar” came up all over the place. I was recently reading a book on it, where there was a chapter called “Definition of Cyberwar” and I thought that finally somebody took a bold step forward in this discussion but I was disappointed. The chapter did nothing more than again give examples (the classical ones like Estonia, Georgia, Stuxnet, Ghostnet) as examples for cyberwar.

A friend of mine then sent me an article called Cyber War Will Not Take Place by Thomas Rid, King's College London, UK, which therefore I needed to read and it is very, very refreshing. In his opening he claims:

Cyber war has never happened in the past. Cyber war does not take place in the present. And it is highly unlikely that cyber war will occur in the future. Instead, all past and present political cyber attacks are merely sophisticated versions of three activities that are as old as warfare itself: subversion, espionage, and sabotage. That is improbable to change in the years ahead.

According to this paper, a conflict has to have three criteria to meet to be classified as a war (and all three need to be there):

  1. It has to be violent in its character
  2. It has to be instrumental
  3. It has to be of political nature

If all three are met, you can call it a war. That’s the first time that I (not being in this business) have seen a definition. If you apply the definition, all conflicts so far are really falling under the umbrella of subversion, espionage and sabotage.

This might make a significant difference as it might calm down the discussion and/or set it at least in the right perspective. It is definitely something which is worth looking at in my opinion