6 historical threat patterns suggest that cyberwar could be inevitable

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Predicting cyberthreats has been an elusive goal. Unlike in healthcare, where early diagnostics can be used to predict and hopefully prevent disease, cybersecurity has never had a reliable means for determining that an attack is coming. This is especially true for isolated cyberbreaches, such as data theft, which are often decided on a whim. 

That said, it’s been noticed by this author recently that certain historical patterns do exist that can be used to predict large-scale cyberthreats. Sadly, as will be shown below, analysis and extrapolation of the patterns suggest an uncomfortable progression toward a major global cyberwar. Let’s go through the relevant patterns.

Threat pattern 1: Worms

In 1988, the first worm was created by a student with the innocent goal of determining whether such a program might work. This was followed by a long period of minimal worm activity, only to be broken in 2003 by a major rash of worms such as Slammer, Blaster and Nachi. These worms caused significant disruption to major business operations.

The pattern here was that an initial small-scale attack occurred in 1988, followed by 15 years of relative quiet, which ended with a significant large-scale attack in 2003. Worms still represent a cyberthreat, but not much change has occurred in their design since 2003. Worms are now in a period of relative quiet once again.

Threat pattern 2: Botnets

In 1999, the first botnet appeared, followed by a similar attack in March of 2000. This was followed by a period of relative quiet in terms of DDoS attack design innovation. Attack volumes, for example, remained relatively constant until 13 years later when Iranian hackers launched a series of massive layer 3/7 DDoS attacks at US banks

Again, the pattern was that an initial small-scale attack occurred in 1999, followed by 13 years of quiet, which ended with a large-scale event in 2012. Like worms, botnets are also still a security problem, but they have not experienced much…