The information revolution is leading to the rise of network forms of organization, with unusual implications for how conflicts are conducted. Whilst "cyberwar" refers primarily to information-based military operations designed to disrupt an adversary, "netwar" relates to lower-intensity social conflict and crime in which the antagonists are organized more as sprawling "leaderless" networks than as tight-knit hierarchies. Many terrorists, transnational criminals, fundamentalists, and ethno-nationalists are developing netwar capabilities. A new generation of revolutionaries and militant radicals is also emerging, with new doctrines, strategies, and technologies that support their reliance on network forms of organization. Strong netwar actors will have not only organizational, but also doctrinal, technological, and social layers that emphasize network designs. The context of netwar may come to be defined by conflicts between such nonstate actors, acting on their own or as the proxies of states. Traditional notions of war as a sequential process based on massing, maneouvering, and fighting are likely to prove inadequate to cope with a nonlinear landscape of information-age conflicts.
Targets for cyberwar could include air-traffic control systems, power plants, banks and fund transfer systems, in addition to military systems dependent on computer enhanced communications. Attacks could notably be focused on public telephone systems.
In the late 1990s, computer hackers began to make attacks on US defence sites.
In 2001, rising tension between the USA and China set off an unsanctioned hacking war.