When the idea of 21st-century warfare is brought up, people often think of technologies like drones, robots, and space-based weaponry.
What many don’t think about is the type of modern warfare where no bullets are fired, no explosives are set off, and not a single missile is launched.
Even so, war without traditional weapons is able to do just as much damage to day-to-day life, if not more.
The east coast of the United States got a small taste of it last week when Colonial Pipeline suffered a data breach that caused it to shut down the pipeline that carries fuel from Texas to New York.
When attackers belonging to a Russian hacking group called DarkSide stole critical business information, Colonial Pipeline shut down its operations out of caution. The flow of fuel was cut off, crippling the company’s service areas.
It wasn’t long before widespread images of gas station pumps with “out of order” signs circulated online and on the news. From there, long lines formed at pumps as people filled up whatever containers they could get their hands on.
In short, a good number of Americans had their daily lives interrupted and never even saw the attack that caused it.
They saw no enemy. There was no weapon in the traditional sense. And the attack came suddenly and without warning.
This is hardly the first time something like this has happened.
Foreign hackers, usually based in Russia, China, or North Korea, have been targeting U.S. and European government agencies and businesses for years.
Sometimes the goal is to steal critical information. Sometimes the goal is to disrupt operations like we saw with last week’s incident.
Whatever the goal is, it shows that we are vulnerable to attacks on a front that not many people think about, even though it affects everyone.
The last few administrations had sought to deal with it, but President Biden’s White House is taking the biggest steps toward doing something about it.
Last week, the president signed an executive order that establishes cybersecurity standards for any software used by government agencies. IT service providers would have to tell the government about breaches that could affect U.S. networks and contractual barriers that might keep them from doing so would be removed.
The order also creates a standard response to cyberattacks, creates a push for the government to upgrade to secure cloud services and multi-factor authentication, and establishes a Cybersecurity Safety Review Board that convenes after a cyberattack to analyze a situation and make recommendations.
In Europe, officials are seeking to make similar changes.
Earlier this month, the French senate heard from Juhan Lepassaar, director-general of the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), and Guillaume Poupard, director-general of the French National Agency for the Security of Information Systems (ANSSI).
They made the case that there needs to be more cooperation between European countries. They also argued that spending on cybersecurity should be ramped up to be more on par with the $18 billion the U.S. spent in 2020.
That number is just a portion of the $60 billion expected to be spent globally on cybersecurity this year. But that $60 billion is already 10% higher than what was spent last year.
The U.S. and other countries realize that these kinds of cyberattacks are only going to increase and that they need to keep up as a result. That means more spending, more growth within the cybersecurity industry, and more attention being paid to the sector overall.
Criminal groups and state-sponsored organizations have shown that nothing is safe. They’re targeting everything from critical infrastructure to government agencies, hospitals, law enforcement organizations, and elections.
Staying a step ahead of them is going to be at the top of the list of priorities for many countries.
With enemies able to target things like fuel pipelines, sensitive data, and power grids without ever firing a single shot, 21st-century warfare is going to look very different from what people are used to.
The emerging solutions to addressing these problems will open up all kinds of investment opportunities as governments and businesses get on the same page about how to proceed.
Keep your eyes open,
Origen: The Coming Cybersecurity Boom