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Cyberwarfare is the use of cyber attacks against an enemy state, causing comparable harm to actual warfare and/or disrupting vital computer systems. Some intended outcomes could be espionage, sabotage, propaganda, manipulation or economic warfare.
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There is significant debate among experts regarding the definition of cyberwarfare, and even if such a thing exists. One view is that the term is a misnomer since no cyber attacks to date could be described as a war. An alternative view is that it is a suitable label for cyber attacks which cause physical damage to people and objects in the real world.
Many countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, Israel, Iran, and North Korea have active cyber capabilities for offensive and defensive operations. As states explore the use of cyber operations and combine capabilities, the likelihood of physical confrontation and violence playing out as a result of, or part of, a cyber operation is increased. However, meeting the scale and protracted nature of war is unlikely, thus ambiguity remains.
The first instance of kinetic military action used in response to a cyber-attack resulting in the loss of human life was observed on 5 May 2019, when the Israel Defense Forces targeted and destroyed a building associated with an ongoing cyber-attack.