Moscow has already engaged in cyber-warfare, launching denial of service attacks against Estonian government websites in 2007, and Georgia in 2008 before attacking that nation. Both nations were satellites of the former Soviet Union, along with Ukraine.
Cyber-attacks are "bound to be part of any future engagements," Gansler said. "We also have economic concerns about cyber having impact on industry or messing up power grids or communications systems. These are the things we are worrying about for the 21st century."
The opening salvos of a cyber-war between Russia and Ukraine may have already begun. Ukrainian parliament members said this week that their cell phone and Internet services are being blocked by Russian agents in the Crimea.
Crimea has only one Internet exchange point that controls access to all traffic within the disputed territory. Russia also controls three of the six Internet junctions into the entire nation of Ukraine.
Crippling a nation's digital infrastructure could be as important as seizing telegraph lines, railroads and radio stations was for enemy armies during World War II. Today, water, power and energy supplies are digitally linked and could be vulnerable to hacker attacks or viruses, such as the Stuxnet worm that damaged one of Iran's nuclear facilities and was reportedly devised by Israeli and American programmers.