ValueWalk on case studies about cyber attacks, security, and terrorism has a very simple yet educational breakdown of the nuances between cyber crime and cyber war:
It is important to differentiate between organized cyber crime and cyber war. Organized cyber crime’s goal is financial gain for the hacker, either directly through illegally transferring funds or by turning the victim’s computer into a “zombie machine,” which is then used in other cyber attacks. On the other hand, cyber war’s main goal is to gain control and intimidate the target, with the target being a sovereign country’s public or private information system. Cyber terrorism is defined as the politically motivated use of computers and information technology to cause severe disruption or widespread fear.
Cyber attacks allow for small groups to have a disproportionate ability to cause damage on a large scale as even a single skilled hacker could cause serious damage. Additionally, cyber attacks are so inexpensive and hard to track that they’re likely to be used frequently, either in conjunction with conventional warfare or independently. Organizing a cyber attack is becoming increasingly easier as hackers often share corrupted codes over internet chat rooms.
The discussion on Estonia and Georgia are good reminders of the early days of nation state sponsored cyber attacks.