America’s Achilles’ Heel

The 21st Century has seen the world grow dependent on the Internet. Whether it’s remotely piloting drones from half a world away or sending an e-mail to a coworker half an office away, we rely on technology at an unprecedented level. And just as warfare evolved from land based armies fighting each other in lines to the seas to the air, the next frontier in warfare will be computer networks.

Cyperspace proves to be a very vulnerable battle sphere. The Internet was not designed to be a secure place, but to be a quick, adaptable network for the transfer of critical information. When the Department of Defense designed it, they never foresaw how much the world would rely on it in the future. The Internet is one of our most critical systems.

Ultimately, we face a battle of efficiency and convenience versus security. We can increase our efficiency by installing things like smart power grids, network monitored and controlled traffic systems, and an online financial system, but at the same time, networking these devices opens them up to the threat of cyber attack. Imagine the chaos a widespread blackout would cause, especially on days like today, when it’s supposed to approach or pass the 100-degree mark everywhere but the West Coast. Imagine a city’s traffic infrastructure, road, rail, or maybe even air, being crippled, taking it to a standstill. Imagine crippling the financial system, either on Wall Street or Main Street. The loss of confidence would surely send us into a deep depression.

Eric Rosenbach, deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy, has said, “the problem is so amazing and daunting and brilliant, that we have this tendency to sit there and stare at it, and talk about it and kind of marvel at it, and you never get to the point … of what do we do about it?” And that’s exactly what we need to figure out.