Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

April 15, 2010

Cyberwarfare vs Cyberterrorism – What’s the Difference?

Filed under: CyberKill — Frank Fiore @ 3:32 PM

In my new novel Cyberkill, I create a fictional story that has aspects of both cyberwarfare and cyberterrorism.

So what’s the difference?

According to James Lewis, a senior fellow and program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Cyberwar is the use of attacks in cyberspace to erode an opponent’s will and capabilities to resist. Cyber­terrorism is the use of attacks in cyberspace to create fear and horror in the target population to achieve some political end.

Both are in CyberKill.

Operation Digital Sword commences in CyberKill as a reaction to a supposed imminent ‘swarming attack’  attack from China. The US prepares for war.

“This attack fits the mold of China’s ongoing cool war against the West’s information infrastructure.”


“The cold war is over, Bartley!” cried Taylor. “I know we’re not on perfect political terms with the Chinese, but why would they deliberately try to harm our information infrastructure?”


Bartley’s nostrils flared briefly, almost comically. “A covert offensive in cyberspace is one way of settling old scores — without getting into a shooting war.”


“Why does the DoD think China is behind this and not Russia?” asked Cole, eying Taylor to clam up.


“We found emails from a Chinese ISP on the Brotherhood’s computers the FBI confiscated. Two plus two is four, Cole. It all fits.”


“And does the DoD think that the hacker attacks we’ve had over the last several days are also China’s doing?” asked Taylor, calming down.


“Yes,” Bartley said flatly. “And we believe China is backing the terrorists who, we’re certain, have been probing and testing in preparation for a ‘swarming attack.’”


“A what?” asked Taylor.


“A swarming attack,” repeated Bartley. “HomSec discovered a pattern in the attacks. The attacks were all different — Internet service outages, cell phone service disruptions, the Amtrak accident, and now the gas explosion that we suspect was also a cyberterrorist attack. HomeSec believes that China’s claws have been sharpening their skills, testing our information infrastructure in preparation for a big attack.”


“And what’s the lab going to do during this cool war?” asked Dallas.


“The cool war is about to get warm,” Bartley replied confidently. “The White House has authorized Operation Digital Sword. No bombs, no bullets, no bangs this time. The objective is to disrupt the information systems in China. We’re going to give them a taste of their own damn medicine. Digital Sword will be unleashed with such fury and effect that China will soon feel compelled to call a halt to their attacks.”


“The American way of war,” said Taylor mockingly. “Use an atom bomb to swat a fly.”


“And that’s always worked,” said Bartley proudly. “The Chinese are going to understand what it means to go to war with America. Even if it’s just a cyberwar. First we’ll bring down their power grid. Then we’ll disrupt their oil pipeline flows, drowning their military installations in oil in one place and starving it in others. At the same time we’ll wreak havoc with their financial sector. The result will be a taste of what they were planning to do to us. Their transportation, financial and power systems will shut down, causing incalculable economic damage — even more severe than what they planned for us.”

The cyberterrorists, the Digitari Brotherhood, systematically uses the Internet to create terror in the population.

It was early in the morning, and AJ was at her desk, poring over a local D.C. area map. An untouched Starbucks sat on her desk, along with a chocolate donut. A shadow crossed over.

“You’re here early, AJ,” said Agent Dixon, a tall and very serious-looking man.


AJ didn’t look up. “Trying to get a handle on these attacks,” she said, chewing on her lower lip. “I had a few ideas when I woke up this morning.”


“Burst of inspiration?”


“Yeah, something like that. Anyway, I think there may be a pattern here.”


“Pattern?” said Dixon. She heard the doubt in his voice. After all, they had spent the entire day yesterday looking for any similarities. Still, she felt she was on to something, and plunged on.


“The attacks are all different, yes. Internet service outages, cell phone service disruptions, the AMTRAK accident, and now the gas explosion that we suspect was also a cyberterrorist attack.”


“I fail to see a pattern …”


“Not type of pattern,” she said, cutting him off. “Place of pattern. Look here.” AJ pointed to her computer screen. “If I plot the attacks on a map of the U.S. and put them in chronological order, they form a pattern through time. The DirecWay Internet satellite outage was nationwide. Right?”


“Yes. So what?”


“Well, look at the attacks that followed. The next one was the cell phone outages, which was limited to the Northern seaboard.”


“A regional attack,” he said, and AJ’s hopes were raised. He was catching on quick.


“Yes, a regional attack. Then the Amtrak hack was directed at the New York-Washington corridor. And the gas leak was a neighborhood in D.C.”


“Interesting. So what are you getting at?”


“I think whoever is doing these attacks has been sharpening their skills, testing our information infrastructure in preparation for a big attack on D.C.” She stopped to think a moment and added “Or something else.”

Explore these ideas and more reading CyberKill.

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1 Comment »

  1. pupuk organik : A nice and helpful overview.

    Comment by pupuk organik — July 7, 2010 @ 8:05 PM | Reply


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