Cyberwarfare Definition

KZero Staff
Jul 27, 2023

What is Cyberwarfare?

Cyberwarfare is the use of cyberattacks alongside traditional military tactics for warfare. In many cases, cyberattacks can have physical impacts or can be used to achieve the same purposes as traditional military actions.

The 2008 Russo-Georgian War is considered the first military confrontation in history where cyber warfare was waged alongside military action, while the first reported loss of human life in response to a cyberattack occurred in 2019 when the Israel Defense Forces attacked Hamas.

How Does Cyberwarfare Work?

Military action in warfare typically has a defined purpose. For example, an operation might be intended to gather information, disrupt an enemy’s operations, or claim and hold territory.

In some cases, cyberattacks can achieve the same outcomes as a more traditional operation. For example, instead of sending spies to collect information, a country could use hackers to access certain systems and steal the data.

Cyberattacks have also been successfully used on multiple occasions to achieve disruption. For example, Russia has performed several attacks against Ukraine’s power grid over the past several years, causing significant disruption to the country and its citizens.

Case Study: Russia-Ukraine War

Both Russia and Ukraine have used cyberattacks against one another as part of their war efforts. These attacks have been intended to achieve various goals, such as collecting information or causing disruption.

One example of this is the HermeticWiper malware used by Russia to attack Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. This malware deletes critical data on infected systems, rendering them unusable. Russia first deployed this malware in February 2022, shortly before it began military operations against Ukraine.

The Challenge of Defining Cyberware

One of the main challenges when discussing cyberwarfare is determining whether a particular attack was an act of cyberwar. Definitions vary, and some of the defining features of cyberattacks complicate the issue.

One major challenge is attributing a cyberattack to a particular party. For a cyberattack to be an act of war (as opposed to some other form of cyberattack), it would need to be performed by a nation-state as part of its war against another country. Attributing cyberattacks is extremely difficult, so it can be challenging to prove that a particular attack was an act of war.

This attribution challenge becomes more complex with hacktivism. For example, during the Russia-Ukraine war, many third-party actors performed attacks supporting one side or another. While these attacks may have been motivated by the war, it can be difficult to prove if they were officially sanctioned or performed by independent actors. Additionally, some attacks may have been performed against one party or another for reasons unrelated to the war effort.


Cyberwarfare is the use of cyberattacks as a tool of warfare. While these types of attacks were rare in the past, they have become increasingly common in recent years. Incidents such as the HermeticWiper malware campaigns used by Russia against Ukraine demonstrate the potential impacts of these attacks. However, it can be difficult to determine whether a cyberattack was actually part of a war effort due to the challenges of attributing these attacks.

KZero Staff

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