From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 3- Cyber warfare threats and challenges
After 100 days of Ukraine crisis, Russia is yet to achieve what can be termed as a decisive victory in any sector of the current conflict.
Reasons for the lacklustre performance of Russia
- Several reasons have been adduced by experts in the West for the lacklustre performance of the Russian army.
- Lack of motivation: There is a lack of motivation and the poor morale of the Russian forces sent to Ukraine.
- Outdated weaponry: Russian weaponry being outdated and ineffective to fight an informationalised war under modern conditions.
- Leadership issue: Russian commanders have also proved inept in devising plans and taking appropriate decisions in battlefield conditions against a determined enemy.
Important role of cyber warfare
- Given that cyber is often touted as the Fifth Dimension of warfare, it may be worthwhile to examine whether this indeed is the first major conflict in which ‘cyber’ is playing a crucial role, allowing a weaker nation with cyber capabilities to use it to its advantage.
- A former Chief of the National Security Agency of the U.S., in his memoirs had said that although cyberspace is a man-made domain, it had become critical to military operations on land, sea, air and in space.
- A former U.S. Secretary of Defence a few years ago,, even talked of a possible ‘cyber Pearl Harbour to paralyze nations and create a profound sense of vulnerability’.
- The Russian military oligarchy is indeed among the world leaders in digital disruption and cyber-methodology.
- One could have reasonably presumed that even before the conflict commenced, Russia would have swamped Ukraine with an avalanche of digital attacks.
- Ukraine, for its part, has its own digital army, including a corps of digital weapons.
Limits of cyber warfare
- There are several publicised instances earlier, of alleged Russian operatives waging a cyberwar against Ukraine.
- Both sides now possess and use malware such as data-wipers which have proved highly effective.
- On the day the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Russian cyber units are believed to have successfully deployed destructive malware against several Ukrainian military targets.
- A series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against Ukrainian banking and defence websites occurred simultaneously.
- As far as the conduct of the war is concerned, the string of small-scale cyberattacks cannot be said to have had any material impact on the conduct or outcome of the conflict.
- Hence, the cardinal question is why given that Ukraine has put up such a heroic defence — and to a considerable extent stalled the Russian offensive — Russia has not embarked on a massive all-out cyber-offensive.
- If that be the case, then much of the speculation that cyberattacks in the event of a war provide a perpetrator the capability to enact another ‘Pearl Harbour’ seems highly unrealistic.
It is very likely, and possibly a fact, that there are major difficulties in planning and executing massive cyberattacks on a short timeline to ensure higher efficacy of kinetic attacks.