Online and on the ground: protecting our freedom and celebrating our nation’s heroes

Chris Doggett offers some thoughts on security without borders.

Map of the Internet

As our nation honors the brave men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces this month, we reflect on the many sacrifices our country’s veterans have made in order to secure and protect our freedom. After 239 years of hard-won battles, the U.S. is now facing an advanced and evolving technology that could be used as a weapon to attack critical infrastructure, impacting our health, economy and way of life.

Humans have used weapons for thousands of years for warfare, hunting and even sports. As far back as 400,000 BC we’ve seen the earliest evidence of humans using spears, followed by the bow and arrow, and eventually firearms. We’ve also seen firearm and bomb technology rapidly evolve into modern machine guns and the first use of a nuclear weapon. In the past, our enemies have had no shortage of weapons, and technology has once again delivered another avenue for the intention of war. This war, however, is not fought on the ground. It’s waged online.

Crippling cyberattacks are quickly becoming as real as the threat of traditional war. Both types have the potential to wreak havoc on our nation and our livelihood. Consider the damage that could be done by a cyberattack on our critical infrastructure, which includes some of the vital systems that we rely on each day such as power grids, transportation networks and communications systems. An attack on these systems that we rely on so heavily could have a debilitating impact on public health, safety and even our national security. We’re beginning to see attackers increase their focus on these types of cyberattacks.

Considered the first known cyber-weapon, Stuxnet was discovered in 2010, and it was designed specifically to target industrial control systems. The program was designed to not only spy on the systems, but also to sabotage them. Since that time, we’ve seen these types of attacks grow in number and sophistication. Such operations aimed at critical infrastructure systems look for security vulnerabilities that could potentially disrupt or take down our water systems, power lines, transportation systems or financial services that are critical to our livelihood and economy.

A large enough cyberattack on the nation’s financial services sector could have a disastrous effect on the economy. The attack on JPMorgan Chase was perhaps one of the most serious corporate data breaches, which touched more than 83 million households and small business accounts. What makes the attack even more frightening: it could have been a lot worse. An attack on the U.S. banking system has the potential to set off a financial crisis and devastate the financial market. In the most serious cases, an attack could have ripple effects into the broader economy as a whole – both here at home and globally.

Given that cyberthreats are a global issue and the enemies behind such operations know no borders, we believe that security should have no borders as well. To effectively combat cybercriminals and cyberterrorists, the IT security community, international organizations and national and regional law enforcement agencies from all over the world must work together on bolstering and protecting global critical infrastructure sectors.

While working together across our borders is critical to cybersecurity, so is fostering the next generation of cyberwarriors. Just as young soldiers are trained for combat, young people should also have an opportunity for training in jobs that will help fight the cyberthreats facing the world. Every country, industry and security company should focus on creating programs that help guide students to a career in cybersecurity. They will be at the cyber forefront, working to protect our intellectual property, economy and freedom in the near future, and we want to arm them with the knowledge and skills necessary to make the fight a victorious one.

While we honor the brave men and women who have put their lives on the line to protect our nation, we also must remember to guard America’s critical infrastructure from devastating cyberattacks. Our nation’s heroes have risked their lives to fight for our liberty and safety, and we can’t ignore the importance of upholding that freedom. It will take a global effort, but the goal is the same: make the world a safer place both online and on the ground in order to make our lives more secure – today and tomorrow.