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When tens of millions of superfans of the Korean pop-music sensation BTS descended on the Internet in June in support of Black Lives Matter, some described them as a virtual army. But for renowned hacker the Grugq, the impact of that army was very real. By taking online action to support racial justice at the behest of BTS, their fans were engaging in the kind of cybercraft that analysts often attribute to nation-states, he said.

“People with this level of devotion, who spend $50 on a lightbulb that’s the same color as their neighbor’s lightbulb and can be controlled by the management of the band—these people are operating in cyberspace. I think that’s awesome. But that also means that cyberpower belongs to a K-pop band,” Grugq said in his opening keynote on the subject of cybercraft and cyberwarfare at the virtual Disclosure Conference on September 2.

Grugq drew a bright line between cyberwar, which uses Internet-connected computing devices in the service of a traditional war, which impacts real-world infrastructure and lives, and cyberwarfare, which, as part of cybercraft, enables nation-states to engage one another antagonistically, without directly killing people or destroying property.



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“‘Cyber’ used to mean that it only gave you strategic surprise,” which is why cybercraft is so often compared to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he said. “But now cyberwarfare is [the ruleless game] Calvinball. Anything goes.”

This rapidly changing environment is a core part of Grugq’s definition of cybercraft as “applied cyberpower”–the ability to use the Internet to create advantages and influence events in the real world across the realms of diplomacy, information, military, and the economy. Essentially, the interconnectedness of the components that gird almost every aspect of society also makes it significantly easier and cheaper to exploit them.

It’s not just Grugq expressing concern over the state of cyberpower. The rapid evolution of environments that promote the exchange of information, regardless of whether it’s factual, makes it easier to manipulate those environments—and to affect the thinking of large groups of people, according to RAND in an October 2019 report.

This story was originally commissioned by Dark Reading. Read the full story here.