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Is Cyberwarfare Already Happening?

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

Are international governments already engaging in cyberwarfare by hacking into each other's computer systems? According to recent Reuters articles, at a minimum, a war of words is brewing suggesting that this already is the case.

First, it is reported that via a flaw in Adobe software, hackers were able to target government computer systems in Europe. Apparently, the systems were not actually compromised, but the specifics of the attack are being shared with NATO member states in an effort to remain ready for potential further attacks.

Because the attack was broad, creative and sophisticated, it is suspected that the attacks may have been launched by a nation-state. The targets of the attack included government computers in Ireland, Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic. Other entities in the United States, Belgium and Ukraine seemingly also were targeted by the malicious software, which has been called "MiniDuke."

On top of all of this, China's Defense Ministry has asserted that two important Chinese military Websites were hit by 144,000 hacking attacks per month last year, and that almost two-thirds of them supposedly emanated from the United States.

Yet, a U.S. computer security company asserts that a series of hacking attacks that primarily targeted the United States probably were initiated by a Chinese military unit.

So, as we can see, there certainly is a war of words with respect to potential cyberwarfare. The lesson is that the playing field for aggressive and defensive actions between nations has changed, and that playing field now apparently also resides in cyberspace.

Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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