As a policy instrument, kinetic warfare had mainly been abandoned by the West. In place of committing troops and planes, sanctions became the primary method of responding to security threats. As a result, the Russian invasion of Crimea went largely unpunished. As a powerful deterrent against military action, mutually assured destruction serves as a powerful deterrent in the nuclear age. It has been the same case for North Korea, but in this case, they have largely managed to bypass the worst sanctions by using cyber theft and ransomware.
The current attack by Russia on Ukraine shows that kinetic warfare has not passed. In response, Germany has increased its defense budget by $100bn. Many of these resources will be devoted to cyber warfare and hardware. Unfortunately, the modern battlefield appears to require both.
The impact of the cyberattack on Ukraine included damage to the fabric of life by damaging financial and energy companies and destabilization by using influence attacks and false awareness campaigns. In addition, there has been the contamination of social media, damage to government institutions, and direct and indirect messages to the public. In Russia, Twitter has been closed down, and Facebook is almost unusable. In addition, Anonymous has taken down all major Russian news sites as I write this.
As we can see, the cyber dimension is active, calculated, planned, and will be a significant element of any broad kinetic campaign into the future. The interference in the US presidential election and the Brexit vote in the UK may have already had seismic impacts, but we cannot be sure. To attack in the diplomatic and economic spheres, all powers must have offensive capabilities. Nevertheless, defense is the best form of attack in this situation.
Russia’s strategy has been long in the making. In the event that non-NATO members such as Finland and Sweden apply to join, it’s fair to assume that cyber warfare to the point of societal disorder would be the first response. Many similar scenarios have undoubtedly had their cyber-attack plans drawn up by all sides.
Cyber Warfare has become the fifth dimension for overt and covert combat systems as this horrific conflict continues. It is a multidisciplinary and multipurpose way of delivering both physical damage and graded messaging.
The IoT combined with 5G continues to increase its dominance in Industry 4, which controls much of our manufacturing, domestic life, and critical infrastructure. So what can we as countries, companies, and individuals do to defend ourselves against attackers seeking to steal, destroy, or overthrow?
There is an answer in the architecture of confidential computing. Cybersecurity had done a good job protecting data in storage and transit, but the most vulnerable time is when the data is used. By running data and applications in secure enclaves that isolate data and code, confidential computing prevents unauthorized access, even when operating in compromised computing infrastructure. So, for example, although an attack on a water plant might provide access to a wide range of information, it would still be unable to open a valve to increase chlorine levels and threaten the lives of tens of thousands.
In addition to secure enclaves, zero trust, which assumes that all systems are compromised, continuously validates every stage of digital interaction. When combined with Edge Computing, which cuts journey times by computing close to where the action happens, Confidential Computing transforms existing cybersecurity architecture into a fortress built with new materials, rather than simply adding layers to crumbling walls.
We welcome colleagues and other tech providers to broaden the knowledge and technological base and drive our own forward. We discussed Mutually Assured Destruction. Although we know Confidential Computing will not be restricted to legitimate actors, we can hope that it will lead to Mutually Assured Defense over destruction.