Cyberattacks: Another reason to unleash WWIII?

UK's Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has been in royal spirits lately. At first, he said that the Russians would be jealous of the UK's new and largest aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth. Afterwards, he called Russia an aggressor and proceeded to say that the UK would be prepared to resort to all possible means to respond to hacker attacks. Mr. Fallon appears to be a very resolute man, almost like Ukraine's Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Alexander Turchynov.

Last week, hackers attacked information systems of the British Parliament. The hackers, Fallon said, tried to carry out a consistent and determined attack on all accounts of parliamentary users to identify "sloppy passwords" to gain access to e-mails. "We have no evidence yet as to who was behind the attack on Parliament, it is too early to speculate what kind of actor was involved.

"When we know, we have got to consider how to respond," Michael Fallon said. Quite possibly, the UK may blame Russia for the Westminster cyberattack.  

The Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Alexander Turchinov, goes with the flow. He announced that Russia was behind a large-scale cyber attack that affected hundreds of computers on June 27. It was reported today, that the most recent attack started on June 27 in Ukraine, when "certain corporate users" tried to install Petya-infected accounting program M.E. Doc, which is widely used at Ukrainian companies. Yet, according to Turchynov, Russia is to blame.

Back to Fallon. According to the British minister, the UK is ready to use conventional weapons, including aviation and missile strikes, to respond to hacker attacks that threaten the security of the state. "The price of an online attack could invite a response from any domain - air, land, sea or cyber space," the minister said.

Britain has its own arsenal of cyber weapons, which is used to fight the Islamic State terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria. According to Fallon, the United Kingdom demonstrated the effectiveness of those weapons and became one of the first countries to have offered NATO a technology to support missions of the bloc. However, one should take into account the fact that British authorities try to make NATO allies equate hacker attacks to conventional armed attacks with all ensuing consequences. In this case, aggression against even one member of the alliance shall be seen as an attack on NATO as a whole.

This can be dangerous indeed. UK's Defense Secretary Michael Fallon and France's new President Emmanuelle Macron called Russia an aggressor state. Given that the West traditionally blames Russia for any illegal actions, including in cyberspace, one shall assume that the anti-Russian hysteria can easily lead to lamentable consequences within just a few days.

One may only wonder on what grounds Mr. Fallon could order to launch a missile attack and whether he would be able to present any proof before pushing the button. Is the UK a responsible state with long-standing democratic traditions that exclude voluntarism?

Anton Kulikov

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov