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  • Foto del escritorElena Contreras Saura

New wars are being waged in cyberspace

Technology and innovation have advanced humankind ever since he discovered how to make fire, created the wheel, or learned how to work the land. These incredible works of technology have given rise to the world we know today.

When, in 1969, in the context of the Cold War, the internet was born in the USA as a tool to establish communications in the event of the imminent nuclear threat, few could have imagined the scope and repercussions this technological development would have on our daily lives, on international relations or businesses.

This technology is evolving and opening doors to significant developments while exposing us to new risks and vulnerabilities exploited by malicious actors, which gives security an essential role in its use and development.


States have had an awareness of the importance of digital technology for communication and as an offensive tool for some time now.

In October 2015, John Brennan created a department within the CIA responsible for integrating its cyber and digital capabilities. In his book "World Domination," Pedro Baños considers this event a sign that the intelligence service was preparing for cyberwar, a hybrid war in a cyber scenario.


Cyber-attacks and manipulating information through the internet or social networks have become one of the main instruments of today's "hybrid wars"*.

* Recall that hybrid war is a situation of use of force against a country or non-state actor in which different conventional and non-conventional warfare tools are used.  

Cyberspace is the most frequent scenario for such conflicts that seek to erode citizens' trust in institutions, generate discontent, damage social cohesion, target critical infrastructures, or destabilize the government establishment.

The attraction of cyberspace as a battleground lies in the difficulty for opponents to discover the application of any of these tactics and the ambiguity of attribution due to the programs to change or disguise the origin of the attack.


Some of the most well-known recent examples of cyberattacks as part of " alleged " hybrid warfare campaigns:

  • In 2010, the Stuxnet malware infected a nuclear power plant in Iran and rendered Uranium enrichment centrifuges inoperable.

  • 23 December 2015, a blackout took place in Ukraine due to a power failure in Ivano-Franskivsk. This was caused by a computer attack by the Sandworm group using a computer worm: Black Energy.

  • March 2016, during Hillary Clinton's presidential election campaign, the GRU accessed 50,000 emails from the Democratic team.

  • 2016 Iranian hackers were accused of trying to shut down a dam in the US.

  • 2017 Estonia suffered a distributed denial-of-service attack that collapsed - among others - banks, transport, hospitals, and communications.

  • In May 2017, Wannacry ransomware wreaked international havoc, encrypting computers worldwide, including the UK National Service.

  • March 2021, the SEPE shuts down its activity due to ransomware known as Ryuk, which caused damage to Spanish companies in 2019. It is associated with a Russian group.

In short, the current panorama makes clear the importance that cyberspace is taking on in inter-state relations, in conflicts, and, therefore, in national security.

Developing cybercrime strategies and state cybersecurity plans has become a priority. And while it is true that absolute security in cyberspace is impossible, mechanisms are needed to make the entry of attackers more difficult and to contain our systems once attacked to prevent collapse; continuous cyber-surveillance accompanied by cyber-defense and cyber-resilience are the key to the continuity of our states and their actors.


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