What does ‘war’ mean in 2019?
There is a special relationship between language and technology. One of the phenomena of technological advancement is that it forces people to create new words like computer, byte and internet, or it realizes dreams of those who dare to create new words, like spaceship, before rockets were mainstream.
Technological advancements not only encourage us to create new words, but also forces us to change the definition of some words, even if they are ancient, like the word “war.”
War is one of the ever-present states of humanity. It is probably as old as humans are. We loved war even before we loved cities, even before we loved God, even before we loved to grow crops, or even before we loved to speak. We still love war.
So, there is not much change in our lust for it, but the meaning of it, is undergoing an immense change.
War is defined as a state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country. And a weapon is defined as a thing designed or used for inflicting bodily harm or physical damage.
This definition worked pretty well for thousands of years, up until the era of open markets and hackers.
Now, the end goal might be the same: To harm a country, to cripple it, to inflict damage to it and in the end to occupy or take control of it, but the methodology and the type of adversaries is completely different.
First of all, a state of armed conflict is not necessary anymore as we have witnessed in the recent cyberattack on Garanti BBVA Bank and Turk Telekom. Last Sunday, millions of account holders could not access their accounts and millions of people using a certain operator could not get service. This was all because of a very strong DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack on Garanti BBVA’s digital channels. If it happened during a working day, it could most probably have triggered a serious economic crisis.
I believe that it was aimed to do just that, but was prevented in time because the attacks were still raging on in the early hours of Monday morning. Or it was a warning, a show of force, a taste of what might come.
So, just because actual weapons were not used, how is it different than an army parading near our border, firing on at our soldiers, testing their grit?
Another clear difference of war by hackers and a war by soldiers is that it is not fought between two different countries. It is fought between states and individuals or groups of hackers. These individuals or groups of hackers could be from any country. Saturday’s attacks on Garanti BBVA came from 30 different countries such as Russia, Germany, the U.S., Canada and England.
Therefore, usual rules of conduct don’t really apply. In the standard war process, if a country hits you, you hit it back at least as hard as you were hit.
Now, should we attack those 30 countries? Which targets should we choose?
Another question: Were the states of those countries involved? Or was it a coordinated attack from a global network of concerned citizens?
Or even a better question, should we take the attacks on Garanti BBVA and Turk Telekom as attacks on our sovereignty or simple attacks on corporations?
Are we in a war or not?
If so, who we are fighting against?
If we are in a war, what could be their target?
Will they target our electric grids? Or factories? Or Dams?
I am sure that political leaders of modern times miss the good old days when you knew if you were in a war or not. Fighting with an enemy who cannot be defined must be very difficult.
But it must not be forgotten that even if we cannot define our enemies in the cyber age, they are present. If we as a country would not like to experience more damage, we must be vigilant against cyber war.