In July of 2010, the public learned that under the Bush administration, the US government had unleashed the cyberweapon Stuxnet to slow Iran’s nuclear program. The response of the American public, to the extent that the American public responded at all, was, for the most part, “Well, that was clever of us,” or words to that effect. Had we known then how much damage would eventually be done by cyberterrorism, and how much of that damage would be done to us, we might have been more concerned to hear that we had released the genie from its bottle.
For years, it was the US and China duking it out in cyberspace, but that is (or at least appears to be) relatively quiet now. More recently, an even nastier cyber-conflict has broken out between the US and its once-and-present arch-nemesis, Russia. Unfortunately, all many Americans know about this conflict is that Russia hacked some Clinton emails and periodically releases them on WikiLeaks. Although suspicion for Friday’s attack initially fell on Russia, it was supporters of WikiLeaks who eventually claimed credit. If what they are saying is true, their message to the world—if I may be so bold as to interpret—is that if the world can cut off Julian Assange’s internet access, they can cut off the world’s.
That attack was the first of its kind, and it will prove an absolute game changer.