I believe espionage, hacking, malware, and ransomware, are being used to undermine our economy, national security, and ability to compete globally.
As I live in North America I am an advocate for the prosperity of those of us living in North America – but I do not believe it has to come at the expense of other nations. I believe, properly managed, as the economy strengthens so will its peoples, thus increasing the amount of ‘disposable income’ available, leading to greater prosperity.
In support of this, I believe there to be a few critical ‘systems’ that provide the framework necessary for prosperity:
- Government Services and Agencies
- Policing Services
- Utilities (Energy / Waste / Communications / etc.)
- Commerce / Trade / Foreign Ownership
Government Services and Agencies
Responsible for leading the nation and world-wide representation from a social, political, cultural, and economic view. Providing services such as health care, transportation, financial aid, and education, that are critical to daily life.
For this to work as expected, those working in these institutions must remain loyal to the nation and work towards meeting its objectives. Government agencies must work as seamlessly as possible and in the most cost effective way possible, while ensuring contracts are serviced by those sharing our loyalties
In 2010 the Canadian National CSIS Director raised concern that foreign governments were infiltrating local and provincial governments [Source: CBC News]. I am unaware of any corrective measures having been specified or enacted by the government – failing to raise the confidence level felt by anyone paying attention. More recently there was concern over Russia’s alleged interference with the recent US election, further lowering confidence in our leadership [Source: Council on Foreign Relations, CNN]. Spies also play an important role in the weakening of our government – in 2017 an expert suggested that there could be up to 100,000 foreign agents working for between 60 to 80 nations in America alone [Source: Wikipedia, CNN, NY Post]. As well, foreign spy agencies are secretly recruiting students at educational institutions hoping to build long-term relationships with them [Source: New York Post, Town and Country Mag, Washington Post]. With such interference, who is to say how much turmoil felt within the government is caused by this? How much, and what type, of Intel is being leaked? What is the total financial cost associated with this?
Responsible for the nations (and allies) protection, both from a local and world-wide perspective. Those working in the military must remain loyal to the nation. They require their technologies and communication infrastructure (computers / software / weapon systems / communication devices / etc.) to have been obtained from sources allied with the nation, who are themselves secure and loyal to their nation. Tactical information must be held secret, and only available as required.
We must remember that China and the US are not allies – they merely have strong economic ties. So we should not be surprised when we discover that China manufacturers had installed a ‘back-door’ on microchips made for the US Military. Why would not this manufacturing be outsourced to an Ally [Source: Military.com, Business Insider, Cyberscoop]? Just as with the government, espionage plagues the military, with our secrets being sold or freely provided to those working against our interests [Source: RealClear Defense]. Our military strength requires that our tactics, equipment, and communications remain secure, available, and the supporting Intellectual Property (IP) remain appropriately classified and secure. It was reported back in 2016 that China has gained military strength through the stealing of US defense secrets through industrial and cyber espionage [Source: National Interest Org, Globe and Mail, Clearance Jobs.com].
Responsible for upholding law and order, from time to time working with Government Agencies to ensure that the public is safe from threats from Organized Crime and Terrorists. Investigating illegal commerce activities. Their activities work towards our prosperity and a threat-free environment in which to live and conduct business.
But in 2007 a Canadian Royal Mounted Police (RCMP) report (released under the Freedom of Information Act) found that there had been 322 incidents of officer corruption charges across 11 years [Source: CNN]. As well, as they go digital, Police departments are finding themselves vulnerable to hackers and malware – impeding their efforts [Source: CNBC, Fast Company].
Utilities (Energy / Waste / Communications / etc.)
Responsible for the provisioning of all of the critical infrastructure that the general public would deem critical for our functioning as a society. If not managed directly by our government then we would hope that those owning these resources (while we would expect them to remain profit driven) would act as agents considering our nations best interests.
A significant number of these utilities use expensive, complex, older, outdated equipment and software that was never meant to be connected to the Internet, but now is. As we’ve seen in the past few years, the threats against our Utilities has increased, with outages affecting everything from nuclear reactors, power generation and distribution stations, clean water treatment plants, communication systems, GPS systems, and etc. [Source: Hot For Security, Forbes, Utility Drive]. Other threats are not at all discussed, such as the deficiencies in the current electric utility’s business model, which if left alone could lend to its eventual failure. With the monies to be made from these utilities, I wonder as to how it is possible for those owning / funding / investing to not see the short vision offered in the business models [Source: GDS Associates].
Commerce / Trade / Foreign Ownership
Required for the nation to remain profitable both in a local economic sense and within the world economy. Considering “Free-Trade” and the low cost of off-shore production, significant economic incentive must be provided for companies to remain on our nations soil. North American companies are trying to compete in an ever changing international market. Twenty years ago industrialized nations represented two-thirds of global output, with developing nations one-third – however in twenty more years this will have reversed.
Considering this, I am amazed that our industries and commerce remain under constant threat of espionage, cyber threats, and transnational organized crime groups working to launder money through our economy, with litle or no real action in place to protect them. The theft of our Intellectual Property has long-term financial effects, yet we remain focused on storing our data on Internet based servers [ZD NET, Retail Dive, Toronto Sun, MIT Technology Review]. It would seem that those driving our economic engine may not be doing so with our best interests in mind, as advanced countries are mired with sustained slow growth as they struggle with the long-lasting legacies from recent financial crisis, unsustainable fiscal balances, and aging populations – yet refrain from implementing protectionism policies [Source: Financial Post].
In all the above, I believe that the following three issues are root of all the above concerns: insecure communications, poorly defined data infrastructure, and weak nation loyalty.
Businesses, financial institutions, government agencies, the military, police, and the general public (essentially the nation) needs to be able to communicate securely. A large majority of our communications is sent through the Internet, which is easily hacked – and even if security were to be immensely improved would still offer a direct connection with other nations, agencies, organized crime and terrorist groups that are working against us. Why are our communications devices outsourced to the lowest bidder? Why have we not moved our communications systems off of the Internet?
The majority of our critical infrastructure is available on the Internet. We remain under constant threat of our infrastructure being hacked. Even our 911 services have been hacked [Source: NBC News]. Rather than addressing our reliance on an infrastructure that is available to others who are working against us, we focus on the promotion of new technologies meant to help ensure that communications on this network are secure, or technologies geared towards ensuring maximum up-time, or counter intelligence, etc.. Why would we not move our critical systems off the Internet and onto their own, safe-guarded, and physically secured network?
Why we do not promote the generation of sustainable wealth? Why do we allow outside influences positions of power inside our governments, our corporations, our military, our education and research facilities, and our infrastructures – serving to weaken our economic, military, and government engines. If this stems from a lack of national pride – then how do we address this? Is this problem monetarily based?
I believe it’s all about money. Are we so focused on the global economy that we have lost touch on our own? It would almost appear that our Intellectual Property, assets, communications, and economy are not viewed as having any value. You would think that the people who serve to make the highest profit from our having a fruitful and productive society would be working towards this – to keep their wealth and to keep it sustainable. Yet it seems to be the other way around. Is this because those influencing or driving our economy, military, and governments are actually those who would benefit from the insecurities, economic weaknesses, and instabilities seen today?