NEW Cyber Events Report Highlights the Threats of Internet Blackout in Crisis

The 9th instalment in the series designed for military and national security decision makers looks at the potential damage of limited or near total shutdown of internet during crisis, takedown of a major botnet, hacking the control system of a water plant in Florida and several other incidents. The CCDCOE report highlights takeaways for the senior leaders in order to be better prepared for emerging cyber threats.

“The ninth instalment in the series analyses again recent incidents that should be carefully studied in order to be better prepared for potential damages in our societies. Over the past years, internet or social media blackouts during crisis have been reported from Belarus, Egypt and most recently Myanmar. In a different context such blackouts could seriously damage the command and control of military operations,” explains Jan Wünsche, CCDCOE Strategy Researcher.

Blackouts of the internet in the interconnected world of today could make the command and control of military operations more difficult; as it is not uncommon to use mobile internet connections as one part of the communications solution. At the same time, it allows military forces to become less visible. For example, military units and their movement can be tracked through social media through accidental exposure because of weak security culture or because of pre-planned open-source intelligence collection activities by the adversaries, or even through things like surveillance cameras connected to the internet.

“In addition to that the most recent issue covers the breach of a water plant control system in Florida. Smaller utility plants are unfortunately often poorly protected from cyberattacks. If a large number of them were targeted, the combined effect may mean that large portion of the population would be without water, electricity or any other utility” adds Wünsche. “A similar scenario of hacking a water plant has also been played out before in the largest and most complex international live-fire cyber defence exercise Locked Shields, organised by the CCDCOE.”

In 2020 the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) launched a series of reports that highlight how threats, vulnerabilities and incidents in cyberspace can affect military organisations and their operations. The new edition in this recurring series highlights some of the topics that were at the forefront during 2020.

The primary audience for this series includes military decision makers at different levels of command. The selection of relevant news articles stems from the significance of the events from the perspective of the military, utilizing the CCDCOE´s multidisciplinary expertise and 360° approach to cyber defence.

Discover all the reports in the series.