Cybersecurity in the 21st Century
The need for American cyber-security, in this day and age, is paramount.. The wars of the 21st century may be fought on plains in Eastern Europe, mountains in Afghanistan, Iraqi deserts, or the blue waters of the Pacific, but they will certainly be fought in trans-continental fiber-optic cables, and communication satellites in geostationary orbit.
In its current state, American cyber security is downright abysmal. The monetary total of all cybercrime on Earth is a whopping 375 billion dollars, much of that impacting the United States. The US Government, who should be leading the way, is ranked worst among all major industries when it comes to cybersecurity, despite the Obama administration requesting 19 billion dollars for cybersecurity in the FY 2017 budget. The Pentagon was hacked by Russia in 2015, and 4000 Joints Chief of Staff personnel were hacked. Earlier in 2015, over 20 million government accounts were hacked, and valuable personal information was stolen.
In addition to the government, private institutions have also failed in cyber security. Around 500 million Yahoo accounts were hacked by a few Russian agents, in a massive security breach that sent Yahoo shares tumbling. In addition, the healthcare industry was targeted by waves of hacks that affected tens of millions of medical and client records. Only by March of 2017, there were 312 data breaches in total, among various medial, governmental, industrial, and educational institutions. While the WannaCry Ransomware mainly hit NHS hospitals in the UK-many using outdated systems running Windows XP, it also hit many hospitals and medical institutions in America. The fact is, when private institutions are attacked by hacks and malware, the consequences are dire. Stock prices can tumble, surgeries can be postponed, and lives can be ruined by identity theft.
In a potential war scenario, cyber-attacks would be absolutely devastating. If North Korea’s missile tests could’ve been hacked by the Pentagon, there is no reason why China cannot hack American missiles, and send them into the Pacific Ocean instead of at a vital military base. There is no reason that a power like Russia couldn’t obtain extremely classified information regarding American war plans. On the battlefield, there is no reason why Iran or North Korea couldn’t breach the chain of command and cause mayhem. Given enough time and technological advancement, the cyber-attack capabilities of all nations around the world will outpace the cyber defense capabilities of all nations. Just like Germany’s advanced tactics in World War 2 outpaced the conventional thinking of World War 1, so too will advanced cyber warfare technologies and systems outpace conventional technological thinking.
Nevertheless, the Allies won World War 2 because they could adapt to and beat the Blitzkrieg. The United States must adapt to and beat new cyber-threats. Mandating the teaching of computer coding in the US education system is a good place to start-not only does it provide a vital job skill, but it would help the government identify new researchers to build new cyber-security mechanisms, as well as develop technological literacy. In addition, the United States must spend on cyber-security. The F-35 Lightning II fighter cost 1.5 trillion dollars, and still has numerous problems. A few billion dollars to improve government servers and make them hard to breach would save billions of dollars down the line. Punishing companies for being neglectful with the data of their own clients would also be a step in the right direction. Regardless, it is time that America opens its eye to the 4th theater of warfare: cyberspace.