by CARLA WHITE on June 24, 2017

Historically, nations have always known who their enemies are. While tense, these relationships weren’t usually any more complicated than Red vs. Blue.

Today, instead of outright attacks, large nations conduct their business exclusively through proxies. Until recently this meant waging wars in third-world countries; now some of that is entering the realm of “cyberwarfare.”

Where does cybersecurity figure in international relations? Issues have been raised on topics ranging from Hillary Clinton’s e-mails to Donald Trump and Russian “influence” over the elections, and the Chinese. All nations from the US to North Korea police or at the very least spy on the online activities of their citizens. The interplay between searching for threats and invading personal privacy is an issue that can’t be ignored forever.

Here’s where things are currently headed.

The Strangest Game

Largely because countries fear nuclear weapons, direct war is has been ruled out between superpowers (or at least those with nuclear weapons). The Cold War was the first example of the awkward transition into the modern era as the United States and the former Soviet Union butted heads across the globe, unwilling to directly fight with one another.

Transition into a world where everything is based on computers and functions as part of a network has led to countries using stolen data and subterfuge rather than physical force. The most obvious example of this is the United States 2016 election.

Whether or not there was foreign involvement in the election results is beside the point; countless foreign financial interests are always interfering with elections (Israel, for example, is influential in the States). The point is how foreign powers are participating in elections.

If Russia was involved, the likely path was through spreading information or misinformation online. This can be done either by hacking and stealing data from political figures that could be disadvantageous if exposed or just by making up facts. Loading up tons of posts on social media today is akin to publishing a major news story just a few decades ago.

Is this enough to change the results in a political race? It certainly could be. Clever marketing coupled with an understanding of the system can easily outpace expensive political campaigning.

Government Hackers

Many of us don’t have a very clear understanding of hacking. However, the government uses those with hacking skills to sabotage foreign powers. Two examples come to mind. The former is supported by solid evidence and the latter less so.

Back in 2010, the US released a virus against the Iranians that’s since has been dubbed Stuxnet. That goal was to sabotage their nuclear program and prolong or prevent them from acquiring nuclear power. Unfortunately for the US, the virus did its job a little too well and was quickly discovered. But it showed the world just how significant cyber threats could become and served to further sour relations (as if they weren’t bad enough).


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Carla White is a cybersecurity specialist and technology blogger. As a writer, she’s spent years researching modern problems and helping to pen solutions for companies and individuals alike.