We’re all actively fighting a war online, whether we know it or not. Criminals go after our personal information, our infrastructure, and our deepest secrets. It's a war that various portions of the military are taking more seriously, as spending on cybersecurity globally is expected to reach $10 billion in 2015.
Granted, that number shrivels against the $601 billion that the United States budgeted for military and defense spending in 2015, but cybersecurity is on the rise. Reports from ABI Research (News - Alert) suggest that spending will be both offensive and defensive, including the development of custom malware, covert surveillance, and gaining access to zero-day exploits to allow for attacks to be staged on other systems. Some of the potential uses for these systems include the ability to actively disrupt not only the flow of information for opposing forces, but also attacking operations systems and the ability to disrupt life on the home front as well.
There will be no shortage of firms going after that budget, from Juniper Networks (News - Alert) to Core Security to Mitnick Security. ABI Research's digital security research director, Michela Menting, further noted that the use of cyberoffensive operations like malware campaigns were the biggest driver of advanced persistent threats around.
The idea that governments may be preparing to attack civilians through economic or political turmoil at home may seem unsavory, yet this is a war we all have a part in. Anyone who's put in an antivirus system or uses a firewall is already familiar with some of the defensive options of this kind of warfare. Though regular users may not struggle against government-sponsored hacking teams, we do face acts of online crime, which are essentially the same acts governments use but on a much smaller scale.
There's also little doubt it would be effective. Imagine if a country went to war against another, and then the invaded country then used a cyberwarfare strategy to freeze the assets of every person in the invading country. It might well stop an invasion in its tracks. Interference with logistics, with the power grid, and a host of other possibilities all come into play.
Cyberoffensive operations can be very damaging to a country and its way of life, so for militaries to be stocking up on tools to do just this doesn't bode well. It therefore behooves us all to step up our own vigilance, though admittedly, against a government-sponsored force there's likely only so much we can do.