The Unknown Threat: Cyberspace

What is the biggest threat to our national security?  Many will say Iran, North Korea, ISIS or other terror organizations.  These are all valid answers, but I believe that the largest threats are attacks on our infrastructure in the form of cyber terrorism and cyber warfare.  While cyber warfare cannot kill anyone directly, it can lead to national security breaches that help enemies penetrate top secret national databases. This is the threat that should concern the military.  Since we cannot see a physical cyber terror attack, it might be too late to prevent catastrophic damage. Thus, we need to put more resources into our cyber security programs in order to preempt these strikes.  

The United States currently takes on cyber warfare through a five-pillar approach:

1. Recognize that the battlefield is in cyberspace

2. Construct proactive defenses rather than passive defenses  

3. Continue the Critical Infrastructure Project

4. Use early detection against advance attacks

5. Maintain and enhance the advantage of technological change by improving our artificial intelligence capabilities

A Brief History: In the past few decades, we have seen many attacks through cyberspace.  The most noticeable attacks are those on public companies such as Sony (concerning the issues around The Interview) or on merchandisers like Target and Home Depot that occurred when hackers stole private customer information including credit card numbers. While these might not seem to be a direct threat to our national security, they should not to be taken lightly.

What we don’t hear about as much in the news are the attacks by governments or hacker groups who launch cyber assaults such as Operation Aurora, Titan Rain and Moonlight Maze.  All of these attacks were detrimental blows to our national security. Through these viruses, the hackers could see classified documents such as maps of military installations and military hardware design. These attacks also sold intellectual property from some of the largest corporations on the market including Google, Adobe Systems and Yahoo. Eventually, the United States government realized that they were behind the curve and in 2009 established the United States Cyber Command. This unit of the military has the sole purpose of ensuring that the United States and our allies have freedom of threats in cyberspace.

Looking Forward: For the 2015 United States budget, the president has a $14 billion plan to avert cyber terrorism and cyber warfare in the future, but I do not think this is enough. When the base budget for the Department of Defense is $534.3 billion, and the total defense spending comes to $786.6 billion, $14 billion is just a drop in the bucket. For our biggest threat, we should be spending more than 1.8 percent of our military spending to fix the problem. Thus, I would suggest that we at least double that number. With the amount of hackers out in the world, as well as new governments organizing these cyber warfare divisions, the threat is larger than ever, and it will keep increasing.

The Middle East: Solely looking at the Middle East, cyber warfare has been rampant among states such as Israel and Iran. Each state looks for holes in the other’s defenses. The Israeli government developed Stuxnet with the United States. This virus targeted Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and took out around 20 percent of Iran’s nuclear capability.  Although Iran tries to retaliate, they are mostly unsuccessful because their cyber warfare program is new. The Middle East shows us that cyber warfare is escalating quickly, and we need to keep up with the new developments in order to rival other nations and terror groups in the cyber world.  If Iran puts more resources into their program, it could mean international devastation, specifically for Israel. Thus, to keep up with all of the advances in cyberspace, we need more funding in our cyber sector in order to prevent further attacks.