Cyberthreat, Cybersecurity and the Cyber Future

Cyberthreat, Cybersecurity and the Cyber Future

Andrew’s Note: Today we return to our crystal ball…or at least the closest thing that the Department of Defense (DOD) has to it…namely the Joint Operating Environment (JOE) 2010. The JOE is the DOD’s keystone document used to project the world in which it will operate up to 25 years into the future.  As I’ve mentioned previously, it’s a sobering read for the prepper and likely to turn the non-prepper into one.  Read on to learn what the Department of Defense thinks about our Cyber future, the Cyber Threat and Cybersecurity (highlights are emphasis I added):


The pace of technological change is accelerating exponentially. If the pace of technological advancement continues, greater change will occur over the next twenty years than occurred in the whole of the Twentieth century. The key will be the use to which these technologies are put. In many ways the world of 2030 could appear nearly as strange to us today as the world of 2000 would have to an observer from 1900.

The advances in communication and information technologies will significantly improve the capabilities of the Joint Force. Global information networks enabled by wireless and broadband technologies will link deployed forces to supporting assets at home. Deployed forces will be able routinely to access analysis, research, computation and planning capabilities located outside the theater. Joint forces will conduct globally-ranging cyber warfare, either as independent operations or in support of deployed units, manipulating or overwhelming adversary systems. The creation of virtual models of potential operational areas will allow the Joint Force to train and plan for those environments. Much as flight simulators allow pilots to refine flight skills, immersive training environments could allow future joint forces to practice key operational tasks.

Cyberspace permeates nearly every aspect of societies from personal computers and cell phones to networked transportation and inventory systems. Our society’s very way of life has come to depend fundamentally on the use of cyberspace. In much the same way that we depend on our highways and the oceans, we rely on networks pieced together through the electromagnetic spectrum to conduct business, purchase goods, entertain ourselves, and run our basic utilities. Our ability to maneuver freely in cyberspace amplifies all instruments of national power. In fact, our ability to maneuver in cyberspace is an emerging instrument of power itself.

Many of those same advances also will be available to America’s opponents, who will use them to attack, degrade, and disrupt communications and the flow of information. It is also essential that the Joint Force be capable of functioning in a hostile information environment, so as not to create an Achilles’ heel by becoming too network dependent.

Cyberspace represents an avenue of great national opportunity, but is also a major source of critical strategic challenges. Low barriers to entry coupled with the anonymous nature of activities in cyberspace greatly broaden the list of potential adversaries. Furthermore, the globe-spanning range of cyberspace and its disregard for national borders challenge our legal system and complicate our ability to deter threats and respond to contingencies. The first months of 2009 highlighted this emerging vulnerability as media reported on the presence of potential adversaries on our power grids, via cyberspace.

Exponential Growth of Computing from JOE 2010

The graphic… illustrates the growth of the number of calculations per second per unit cost over time. The pace of technological change in computing is accelerating at an exponential, rather than linear rate, transcending the specific method of computation. From punch cards to electromechanical relays, from vacuum tubes to transistors, from integrated circuits to future spintronics and quantum computers, the exponential growth of computing power continues. Because people tend to view change in a linear fashion, the implication of this trend means that we often overestimate what is achievable by technology in the short term, while dramatically underestimating and discounting the power and capabilities of computing power in the longer term.

With the availability of so much open source material, cyber security will not just be compromised by adept hacking, but also through the systematic analysis of the activities of many millions of Internet users. The internet has evolved from the simple repository of information into a powerful social networking tool.  Individuals are adding vast amounts of data, including lifelogs, blogs, and social networking information (Web 2.0) while computers are beginning to be able to understand, analyze, and interpret patterns within this mountain of data (Web 3.0).  The open and free flow of information favored by the West will allow adversaries an unprecedented ability to gather intelligence. Other nations without the legal and cultural restraints found in the U.S. may excel at capturing, assessing, or even manipulating this information for military purposes as an aid to waging the “Battle of Narratives.”

Addressing the cyber threat is no small challenge. Cyber threats will demand new approaches to managing information, securing information systems, and ensuring our ability to operate through attack. As we seek to address the threats from cyberspace, Joint Force personnel must always understand that every networked computer is on the front line. Everyone who logs on is a cyber defender first. There are no “protected zones” or “rear areas” because all are equally vulnerable. Finally, future growth in intelligence, planning, and operations requirements emphasizes an increasing need to act and react at machine, not human, speeds. While progress toward defining requirements and advocating for Service cyberspace forces has been made, cyber threats will demand a new mindset to ensure agility in adapting to new challenges.

With very little investment, and cloaked in a veil of anonymity, our adversaries will inevitably attempt to harm our national interests. Cyberspace will become a main front in both irregular and traditional conflicts. Enemies in cyberspace will include both states and non-states and will range from the unsophisticated amateur to highly trained professional hackers. Through cyberspace, enemies will target industry, academia, government, as well as the military in the air, land, maritime, and space domains.  In much the same way that airpower transformed the battlefield of World War II, cyberspace has fractured the physical barriers that shield a nation from attacks on its commerce and communication.

Indeed, adversaries have already taken advantage of computer networks and the power of information technology not only to plan and execute savage acts of terrorism, but also to influence directly the perceptions and will of the U.S. Government and the American population.

Andrew’s Note:  The following information was also provided in the JOE:

  • Connectivity to the home (or node in military networks) grows by 50% a year. Therefore by 2030, people will have about 100,000 times more bandwidth than today.
  • The computing capacity available to the average home will be a computer that runs at a rate of one million times faster than a computer today (2.5 petabytes vs. 2.5 gigabytes). A typical home computer would be capable of downloading the entirety of today’s Library of Congress (16 terabytes), in 128 seconds – just over two minutes’ time. The technical capacity of the telegraph in 1900, was some 2 bits per second across continental distances, meaning that same Library of Congress would have required a transmission time of 3,900 years.
  • An iPod today can hold some 160 gigabytes of data, or 160,000 books. The iPod of 2020 could potentially hold some 16 terabytes of information – essentially the entire Library of Congress


Joint Operating Environment 2010About the Study: The Joint Operating Environment is intended to inform joint concept development and experimentation throughout the Department of Defense. It provides a perspective on future trends, shocks, contexts, and implications for future joint force commanders and other leaders and professionals in the national security field. This document is speculative in nature and does not suppose to predict what will happen in the next twenty-five years. Rather, it is intended to serve as a starting point for discussions about the future security environment at the operational level of war.

Distribution Statement: Approved for Public Release

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