As it has been a while and I am out of practice I thought I would look at a subject that seems to be taking up a fair amount of column inches. And for us oldies, which seems to be a term for anyone who is not a teenager nowadays, cyber reminds us of the robots from the black and white sci-fi B movies that I used to watch at my grandparents house when I was a child.
So what caught my attention first was the PM on his trade mission to India and how he wants to create a cyber co-operation. Now I am guessing they are not planning on creating some joint venture A.I. robot. As it turns out I am slightly behind the curve on this and maybe I do fall into the ‘oldies’ genre. I know there are many UK Call Centres based in India, but there is also a huge amount of personal and commercial UK data stored on large databases in India. To protect this data cyber security needs to be developed. Even though the economic growth rate of India has reduced to 5% and some regard India as starting to lose its way, I think this should not be sniffed at when our growth is flat lined. The fact their growth has declined from 10% is seems more reassuring to me, especially as China is now seeing that high levels of growth is just not sustainable and it must come down to a more harmonised level. So with lower growth and with India expected to have more online users that the USA in the next few years what is the future?
President Obama considers cyber security to be a significant threat and by mentioning it in his state of the nation address, confirms its significance. Obama’s 8 page Executive Order makes an interesting read, although his cyber security framework does not go far enough in my humble opinion. I am not too sure Homeland Security is the best place for this to sit, as cyber does not only pose a threat to your homeland assets but also of those in your foreign locations. But I can see his point of view; a cyber attack on Wall Street would have catastrophic consequences and would be felt worldwide.
The UK’s cyber department sits with GCHQ and this seems the ideal solution, although it also needs to have a military cyber wing because this brings me onto my next thought. Cyber should not only been seen in terms of ‘defence from’ but is should also be utilised as an 'offence tool'. As they say, sometimes the best form of defence is offence! I reiterate how behind the curve I am with this because we just have to look at 'Operation Olympic Games’ the codename for the ‘Stuxnet’ attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, which reputedly put Iran’s Nuclear Programme back 2 years, over 2 years ago now! I also gather that this was an even more sophisticated and well orchestrated attack due to the complication of the ‘air gap’.
An army as a utility of force is an expensive asset to any government who will not risk it unnecessarily. It therefore seems an attractive proposition to use ‘cyber attacks’ to ‘soften’ the target first, or as I call it a ‘soft’ offensive before a ‘hard’ offensive! Unfortunately the very nature of conflict is its unpredictability and the ‘air gap’ problem requires detailed and well executed planning. There has been another paradigm shift, from Industrialised Interstate Warfare to the current warfare amongst the people to this new warfare in cyberspace. Protecting yourself behind a laptop a thousand miles away from your target!
The future is cyber and with an estimated 5 billion internet users by 2020, the threat from cyber is only going to be a clear and significant threat. Each and every government, full of us oldies, needs to ensure they remain dynamic and agile and are two digital steps ahead but they also need to understand they cannot compromise civil liberties to achieve this.