Are They Testing The Waters?


Testing the waters for cyberwar

Hospitals and clinics operated by Prospect Medical Holdings in several states, including California, Texas, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania, experienced a cyber attack that disrupted their computer systems. The attack forced some emergency rooms to shut down, and ambulances were diverted. The extent of the problem is being investigated, and the recovery process may take weeks, during which hospitals are resorting to paper systems.

Healthcare providers are common targets for cyberattacks due to the sensitive patient data they possess.

The discussion about a kinetic response to cyber attacks requires careful consideration. A kinetic response refers to using physical force, such as military action, in response to a cyber attack. This concept has been debated extensively in the cybersecurity community and international relations circles.

Advocates of a kinetic response argue that it can be an effective deterrent against cyber threats, especially when attribution is clear, and a nation-state is identified as the perpetrator. They argue that treating cyber attacks as acts of aggression and responding with physical force can send a strong message and impose consequences on the attacker.

However, there are several challenges and complexities associated with a kinetic response to cyber attacks:

  • Attribution: Cyber attacks are often carried out by sophisticated actors who use various techniques to hide their identity. Attribution can be difficult, and there is a risk of misidentifying the attacker, leading to unintended escalation.
  • Escalation: Responding with physical force can escalate tensions and lead to a broader conflict, with potentially severe consequences. A measured response is crucial to prevent an all-out war.
  • Cyber Warfare Norms: The international community is still in the process of establishing norms and rules for cyber warfare. A kinetic response to a cyber attack can challenge these norms and potentially create a dangerous precedent.
  • Proportionality: The response to a cyber attack must be proportional to the severity of the attack. Determining the appropriate level of response can be challenging.
  • Collateral Damage: A kinetic response may cause collateral damage to civilians and infrastructure, which raises ethical concerns.

In many cases, responding to cyber attacks through diplomatic, economic, and legal means may be more effective and less risky than a kinetic response. International cooperation in cyber defense, sharing threat intelligence, and applying economic sanctions can deter attackers and improve cybersecurity.

Ultimately, the decision on whether to respond to a cyber attack with kinetic force depends on various factors, including the level of attribution certainty, the severity of the attack, the attacker’s motives, and the potential risks of escalation. As cyber threats continue to evolve, finding a balanced and effective approach to cyber defense remains a complex challenge for governments and international organizations.

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About Joe Sullivan 35 Articles
Joe Sullivan has worked in information security for over two decades. He holds numerous certifications and has worked in various roles during that time. Joe is a SANS instructor and senior security consultant for TrustedSec. Joe regularly contributes to SecFlux and shares some of his experiences, knowledge, and insight into current cyber events.