Computer networks now run much of the world. With this technology have come risks associated with potential terrorist attacks and criminal activity aimed at compromising the security of these networks. Join Active Minds as we take a look at how both governments and the private sector are responding to these threats. We will also look at the potential impact these forces have in the realm of U.S. international relations.

Key Lecture Points

  • Cyberspace is the interconnected digital information and communications infrastructure that connects the world. It includes the Internet (and every computer that connects to it), computer systems, telecommunications systems, and the embedded processors and controllers for critical industries. Cyberspace provides critical support for the world’s economy, civil structure, public safety and national security.
  • The advantages that come from connection via cyberspace machines come with consequences. Hackers (whether they are acting as individuals or as groups) have increasingly sought out serious vulnerabilities in cyberspace that can threaten public and private systems that are key to national security and economic functionality. Even small missteps in writing software and configuring systems can have huge ramifications. Cybersecurity is the collective effort to prevent and combat attacks upon the cyber realm.
  • So much of the world’s economic activity and defense operations now take place in cyberspace that President Obama has identified cybersecurity as one of the top priorities of his administration. The Pentagon in 2011 declared cyberspace a domain of war—along with land, sea and air.
  • Until recently US officials have not talked openly about cyberwarfare. But it now appears that the US has been involved in cyberattacks, such as the cyberweapon, Stuxnet, that was used to sabotage computers at Natanz, the Iranian uranium enrichment facility. Iran is also building up its own cyberforce and is believed to be behind recent attacks on several US financial institutions and the Saudi state oil company. Observers warn this is the beginning a new global arms race, this time waged in cyberspace.

Exploration Questions

  • Describe how cybersecurity has become a national security issue.
  • How has our concept of hacking changed?
  • What steps is the US taking to protect itself from cyberattacks?

Reflective Questions

  • How does cybersecurity impact you?
  • What is your reaction to the concept of cyberwar and adding it to the US military’s domain of war?
  • What do you think the US should do to protect itself from cyberattacks?

More to Explore

Books For Further Reading

  • Bowden, Mark. Worm: The First Digital War. Grove Press, 2012. 264 pages. A true crime story that explores a devastating computer virus and a potential cyberweapon.
    Click here to order
  • Clarke, Richard A. and Robert Knake. Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It. Ecco, 2011. 320 pages. A look at how cyberwar is being waged and the need to rethink our national security to meet this new threat.
    Click here to order
  • Mitnick, Kevin, William L. Simon, Steve Wozniak. Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker. Back Bay Books, 2012. 448 pages. Insights into the mind of a social engineering hacker.
    Click here to order