Definition of Cyberwarfare

Cyberwarfare refers to the use of digital techniques and technologies to conduct hostile actions against a nation’s information systems and infrastructure. It typically involves activities like espionage, hacking, and sabotage to disrupt, manipulate, or destroy data and critical systems. Cyberwarfare is increasingly considered an essential aspect of modern military operations and national security strategies.


The phonetics of the keyword “Cyberwarfare” is: /ˈsaɪbərˌwɔrfɛər/

Key Takeaways

  1. Cyberwarfare involves the use of technology to launch attacks on nations, governments, and critical infrastructure with the intent to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to sensitive systems and information.
  2. Defending against cyber threats is a complex process that involves coordinated efforts between governments, businesses, and individuals to develop efficient security measures and strategies for cyber resilience.
  3. International collaboration and the establishment of legal frameworks and policies are essential in preventing and responding to the growing threat of cyberwarfare on a global scale.

Importance of Cyberwarfare

Cyberwarfare is a critical term in today’s technology-driven world because it refers to the use of digital attacks, primarily through the internet, to disrupt, destroy, or compromise the information and systems of an adversary.

As more aspects of life, business, and governance depend on digital infrastructure and data, the potential for cyberwarfare to cause widespread harm and damage has increased significantly.

Governments, businesses, and individuals must all be vigilant and proactive in defending against cyber threats, as the consequences can include the loss of sensitive information, financial ruin, and even physical danger.

Ultimately, the term cyberwarfare is vital as it highlights the evolving nature of warfare and security threats in the digital age, necessitating continuous adaptation and collaboration to ensure collective safety and stability.


Cyberwarfare refers to the use of digital technology and cyberspace to conduct offensive and defensive operations against an opponent’s information systems, achieving strategic or tactical objectives. The primary purpose of cyberwarfare is to weaken or disrupt an adversary’s ability to function within the digital realm, which has become an integral part of modern day societies and military operations.

This form of modern warfare often leverages advanced tools and techniques, such as malware, phishing, and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, in order to exploit vulnerabilities in an enemy’s information infrastructure, including communication networks, financial systems, power grids, and essential government services. In addition to causing significant damage to an enemy’s infrastructure, cyberwarfare can also be used as a tool for espionage and information gathering, allowing one party to obtain valuable intelligence about another’s capabilities, intentions, and strategies.

Furthermore, it can serve as a means of psychological warfare, as demonstrated through targeted social media campaigns and disinformation strategies that aim to manipulate public opinion, sow discord, and further political agendas. As the world becomes more interconnected and reliant on digital systems, cyberwarfare continues to emerge as a critical component of national defense and security strategies, necessitating the need for robust cyber defense capabilities and investments in cyberwarfare-countermeasures.

Examples of Cyberwarfare

Stuxnet (2010): Stuxnet was a highly sophisticated computer worm that was discovered in

It is believed to have been created by the United States and Israel to target Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities. The worm was designed to infiltrate the industrial control systems of the Iranian facilities, specifically the Siemens SCADA systems, and cause the centrifuges to spin out of control, ultimately damaging Iran’s nuclear program. Stuxnet has been widely regarded as a turning point in the development of cyberwarfare, as it demonstrated the potential of cyber weapons to cause significant and specific physical destruction without the need for a traditional military strike.

The Sony Pictures Hack (2014): In November 2014, Sony Pictures was the victim of a massive cybersecurity breach, which led to the theft and subsequent release of numerous confidential documents and personal data. The information leaked included employee information, unreleased movies, sensitive business data, and embarrassing email exchanges. The U.S. government attributed the breach to the North Korean government, due to their anger over the Sony Pictures movie, “The Interview,” which was a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. This cyberattack was considered an act of cyberwarfare due to its political motivation and significant consequences for the targeted organization.

NotPetya (2017): NotPetya, a highly destructive ransomware attack, began in Ukraine in June 2017, before spreading globally. The attack targeted various industries, including banks, government offices, and energy companies. However, it soon became evident that the primary purpose was not monetary gain; instead, NotPetya was designed to cause widespread disruption and damage. The U.S. and UK governments publicly blamed the Russian military for orchestrating the attack, which targeted Ukraine during its ongoing geopolitical conflict with Russia. NotPetya represents a significant example of the potential scope and impact of cyberwarfare operations as a means to disrupt and destabilize foreign infrastructure and economies.


Cyberwarfare FAQ

What is cyberwarfare?

Cyberwarfare refers to the use of digital attacks, like hacking and other malicious activities, by nation-states or other organized groups to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to computer systems, networks, or infrastructure. The purpose of these attacks could vary from stealing sensitive information to causing physical damage to critical infrastructure.

What are some examples of cyberwarfare?

Some well-known examples of cyberwarfare include the Stuxnet malware attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, the Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and the WannaCry ransomware attack attributed to North Korea. Additionally, cyber espionage and industrial espionage campaigns often fall under the category of cyberwarfare.

How does cyberwarfare impact national security?

Cyberwarfare can pose a significant threat to national security by compromising critical infrastructure, disrupting essential services, and stealing valuable or classified information. It can also lead to a loss of public trust in government and institutions, sow confusion and distrust, and potentially escalate tensions between nation-states.

How can governments and organizations defend against cyberwarfare?

Defending against cyberwarfare requires a combination of robust cybersecurity practices, information-sharing among trusted parties, and investments in technology and workforce development. Governments and organizations should adopt best practices like encryption, multi-factor authentication, and regular security audits. Establishing clear communication channels for reporting and responding to cyber incidents is also essential.

What is the role of international law in cyberwarfare?

As cyberwarfare evolves, international law and norms are adapting to address the growing threat. There is ongoing debate over how existing international laws, such as the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Conventions, apply to cyberattacks. New treaties or agreements specifically addressing cyberwarfare may be necessary to establish consensus on international rules and norms governing state behavior in cyberspace.


Related Technology Terms

  • DDoS Attacks
  • Advanced Persistent Threats (APT)
  • Social Engineering
  • Malware
  • Zero-day Exploits

Sources for More Information


About The Authors

The DevX Technology Glossary is reviewed by technology experts and writers from our community. Terms and definitions continue to go under updates to stay relevant and up-to-date. These experts help us maintain the almost 10,000+ technology terms on DevX. Our reviewers have a strong technical background in software development, engineering, and startup businesses. They are experts with real-world experience working in the tech industry and academia.

See our full expert review panel.

These experts include:


About Our Editorial Process

At DevX, we’re dedicated to tech entrepreneurship. Our team closely follows industry shifts, new products, AI breakthroughs, technology trends, and funding announcements. Articles undergo thorough editing to ensure accuracy and clarity, reflecting DevX’s style and supporting entrepreneurs in the tech sphere.

See our full editorial policy.

More Technology Terms

Technology Glossary

Table of Contents