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The human tragedy occurring in Syria, punctuated by the use of banned chemical weapons last week and the response by the United States of America, reinforce that the world is a dangerous place with many threats and bad actors to which and to whom we must be prepared to respond. While the actions taken by America so far are primarily focused on traditional military uses of force, it also brings into focus the broader security issues we face in a technology encapsulated world. This chemical weapons attack could have been prevented. Future wars will be won or lost in the world of technology.
Cyberspace will become the next theatre of warfare. Attacks could disable military networks that control the movement of troops, the path of jet fighters, the command and control of warships.
As horrific as it sounds, considering the aggressive and destabilizing actions of North Korea, we can fully expect the day will be coming soon when an ICBM missile is launched with a nuclear warhead the ability to hit the west coast of the USA. While we may have the capability to shoot down any missile launched from North Korea, it would be far better to prevent the missile from being launched.
A successful attack on a military aviation system that controls munitions could have even more serious consequences.
Cyber Infrastructure Defense
Battles will also be fought with the click of a mouse to unleash carefully weaponized computer programs that disrupt or destroy critical industries like utilities, transportation, communications, and energy. In particular, the electrical distribution centers located throughout our communities, neighborhoods, local businesses are at risk. Disabling one may not be a problem. On the other hand, disabling ten may be a significant problem. Disabling forty could bring metro Atlanta to its knees. Given that much of the components within these centers are no longer manufactured in this country, the time to bring the electrical infrastructure could take weeks to months. Businesses from the local florists to large trucking companies may not be able function. There is not 3 weeks of food on the grocery store shelves.
Cyber Government Defense
The aviation industry is very reliant on a series of complex system that could be attacked. A simple power outage at one airport can cause repercussions worldwide, much of the system relies on radio transmissions that could be disrupted. There is also potential for attack from within an aircraft. The consequences of a successful attack could lead to airport closures, loss of aircraft, loss of civilian lives, damages on the ground and to transportation infrastructure.
Government and military computer systems are commonly attacked by activists and foreign powers, local and regional government infrastructure such as traffic light controls, police and intelligence agency communications, personnel records, student records, and financial systems are also potential targets as they are now all largely computerized. Passports and government ID cards that control access to facilities which use RFID can be vulnerable to cloning.
The Good News
Cyber Security is a fast-growing field with the need for more cyber-workers is growing at a rate of 36.5 percent through 2022. The demand is expected to rise to 6 million (globally) by 2019, with a projected shortfall of 1.5 million.
Today, 46% of organizations say that they have a “problematic shortage” of Cyber security skills in 2016, up from 28% in 2015. Security projects are delayed due to lack of staff expertise (34.5%) and inadequate staffing (26.4%). The top paying cyber security jobs earn an average annual salary of $233,333.
In metro Atlanta, the graduates from superior universities will offer a steady supply of talent that will in turn secure the local economy and the personal security of its residents.
Bearing in mind the vital role of cyber security in American national security, it is absolutely essential for our members of Congress to have a deep understanding of the technology world. As a technology executive for the last three decades, I look forward to bringing that much needed perspective to Congress.
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