Wars are testbeds for new technology. The Korean war saw jet fighters employed at scale for the first time. Israel pioneered the use of drones as radar decoys in its war with Egypt in 1973. And the Gulf war of 1991 was a coming-out party for gps-guided munitions. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the first time that two mature cyber-powers have fought each other over computer networks in wartime. The result is a lesson in the limits of cyber-power and the importance of having a sound defence.
The popular notion of cyberwar has been shaped by lurid and dystopian scenarios of an “electronic Pearl Harbour", first envisaged in the 1990s and accentuated by the relentless digitisation of society. Those fears have been fanned by glimpses of the possible. The American-Israeli Stuxnet worm, which came to light in 2010, inflicted damage on Iranian nuclear machinery with fiendish ingenuity. Russian malware sabotaged Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and 2016.