Proxy wars aside, the main global powers are not dropping bombs on each other. Yet they are also not at peace. They are in a permanent state of non-peace, a condition where traditional military actions are not being taken, but economic and military damage is attempted through cyberwars. The worst kept secret in national intelligence is that all of the major geopolitical players are doing it. Cyberattack was even floated in public recent, as a response to Iran’s speculated involvement in the drone attacks on Saudi oil fields.
The stakes are high. The nation with the strongest / largest / fastest-growing economy may have over the long run have the ability to build the best military. Therefore, economic targets are military targets. It is highly probable that the current trade war between China and America is occurring, in part, because of this concern. There are other motivations of course.
Technology suppliers would prefer to access global markets, without prejudice, to maximize their opportunity/revenue. They are increasingly dragged into the bifurcation of the global economy, and will be further dragged into it if China’s vision of nationally administered Internet areas becomes the norm, what some have called the “splinternet”.
The recent reversal by the IEEE of its position on Chinese engineers reviewing papers is just one example of the conflict which geopolitics injects into the international engineering community. On one hand, there is the sentiment that the best technology and the best engineers should win in a free and open global economy. On the other hand, there is widespread beliefs about state-sponsored cyberattacks and industrial espionage. China is a totalitarian nation, so at a fundamental level, it does not share American Liberal Democratic values — not incidental to the tension between the two nations.
For technology suppliers, the question that arises is how to protect critical infrastructure from state-sponsored cyberattacks. Cyberattacks that will leverage some of the biggest compute clusters in the world; that in the future will leverage quantum computing; that increasingly will leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning. Artificial intelligence will turn cybersecurity from a game of pattern recognition/machine learning/signatures to one that is more like a chess game: move, countermove, think a few moves ahead and learn from opponents moves. Artificial intelligence will be used as an offensive weapon, and therefore will be needed as a defensive weapon as well.
A permanent state of non-peace pits nations with massive resources against the solutions provided by technology suppliers with arguably fewer resources. Technology suppliers will have to consider the consequence and have strategies that address this threat. Both their own health as businesses and the health of “their” nation may depend on these strategies.
An on-going and continuous state of non-peace changes everything and is one of The Important issues in cybersecurity.