World War 3.0: Ten Critical Trends for Cybersecurity: Technological Advances and Greater Connectivity May Be Making Our Systems Less Rather Than More Secure. A Special Panel of Military, Intelligence, and Forecasting Experts Analyzes the Trends That May Be Leading the World to Cyberwar

By Cetron, Marvin J.; Davies, Owen | The Futurist, September-October 2009 | Go to article overview

World War 3.0: Ten Critical Trends for Cybersecurity: Technological Advances and Greater Connectivity May Be Making Our Systems Less Rather Than More Secure. A Special Panel of Military, Intelligence, and Forecasting Experts Analyzes the Trends That May Be Leading the World to Cyberwar


Cetron, Marvin J., Davies, Owen, The Futurist


"Cybersecurity is the soft underbelly of this country," outgoing U.S. National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell declared in a valedictory address to reporters in mid-January. He rated this problem equal in significance to the potential development of atomic weapons by Iran.

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McConnell does not worry so much that hackers or spies will steal classified information from computers owned by government or the military, or by contractors working for them on secret projects. He is afraid they will erase it and thereby deprive the United States of critical data. "It could have a debilitating effect on the country," he said.

With this concern in mind, Forecasting International undertook a study of factors likely to influence the future development of information warfare.

Real-world attacks over the Internet also are possible. In March 2007, the Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory conducted an experiment to determine whether a power plant could be compromised by hacking alone. The result was a diesel generator smoking and on fire due to some malicious data that could easily have been sent to it over the Internet from anywhere in the world. In January 2008, a CIA analyst told American utilities that hackers had infiltrated electric companies in several locations outside the United States. In at least one case, they had managed to shut off power to multiple cities.

We conclude that information warfare will be a significant component in most future conflicts. This position is in line with both U.S. military doctrine and white papers published by the Chinese People's Army. One study affirms that as many as 120 governments already are pursuing Information warfare programs.

Repeated reports that Chinese computer specialists have hacked into government networks in Germany, the United States, and other countries show that the threat is not limited to relatively unsophisticated lands. A 2007 estimate suggested that hackers sponsored by the Chinese government had downloaded more than 3.5 terabytes of information from NIPRNet, a U.S. government network that handles mostly unclassified material. More disturbingly, The Joint Operating Environment 2008: Challenges and Implications for the Future Joint Force (the JOE) comments that "our adversaries have often taken advantage of computer networks and the power of information technology not only to directly influence the perceptions and will of the United States, its decision-makers, and population, but also to plan and execute savage acts of terrorism."

Many factors guarantee that the role of information warfare in military planning and operations will expand greatly in the next two to three decades. These include the spread of new information technologies such as Internet telephony, wireless broad-band, and radio-frequency identification (RFID); the cost and negative publicity of real-world warfare; and the possibility that many information operations can be carried out in secret, allowing successful hackers to stage repeated intrusions into adversaries' computer networks.

10 Critical Trends for Cyberwar

We at Forecasting International rate the following as the 10 most significant trends that will shape the future of information warfare. This ranking is based largely on the responses of our expert panelists, but also on our own judgment, developed over 50 years of trend analysis and extrapolation in military and national-security contexts. In nearly all cases, these two inputs agreed.

1. Technology Increasingly Dominates Both the Economy and Society

New technologies are surpassing the previous state of the art in all fields. Laptop computers and Internet-equipped cell phones provide 24/7 access to e-mail and Web sites.

New materials are bringing stronger, lighter structures that can monitor their own wear. By 2015, artificial intelligence (AI), data mining, and virtual reality will help most organizations to assimilate data and solve problems beyond the range of today's computers. …

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World War 3.0: Ten Critical Trends for Cybersecurity: Technological Advances and Greater Connectivity May Be Making Our Systems Less Rather Than More Secure. A Special Panel of Military, Intelligence, and Forecasting Experts Analyzes the Trends That May Be Leading the World to Cyberwar
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