The Platform


One of the latest major cyberattacks on the United States has been the ransomware attack on JBS, a food processing company. This is the most recent major ransomware attack, but there were others including the NBA, Qantas, and even KIA Motors. These types of attacks on our electronic infrastructure have caused economic pain for several corporations.

The big question is, “who will be next?” Another company like Colonial Pipeline, or an important supplier within the crucial supply chain? Or, will whole cities and regions be critically impaired by various forms of malware denying service or creating electronic extortion with ransomware by locking up critical layers of infrastructure or the day-to-day operations of mass transit?

Today’s software capabilities used in anti-virus and cyber-defense do not cover all the possibilities in cyber threats and attacks within electronic warfare. This is an area that needs more immediate attention and even the Harvard Business Review is starting to see the impact of electronic warfare.

Instead of a targeted attack on a specific location, these cyberattacks are more dispersed and have crippled the flow of business across our infrastructure. The results can be more devastating than a single city being targeted. Cities, however, should start to create broad strategic policies that create guidelines and best practices to protect businesses and the environment within their region. They need to protect their platform for commerce.

Earlier this year, I posed this question: “What are the leaders in government, the military, businesses, and other organizations doing to protect their assets and infrastructure from cyber warfare attacks?”

Welcome to nanokrieg

This is the new type of warfare in the 21st century and we are being exposed to it right now. This was first discussed in a military intelligence whitepaper written for the American Intelligence Journal several years ago.

Nanokrieg, where attacks are electronic and traditional defenses are useless against them.

Nanokrieg, where the mere fact of knowing you are under attack may not be present or felt until much later.

Nanokrieg, where the acceleration of attacks are not based on logistic limitations anymore, but on access to unprotected electronic pathways to data centers, servers, and other electronic devices linked to critical infrastructure and mission-critical applications.

Nanokrieg, where the right attack can bring down a city or region without any explosives or invasion of an army. The battlefield has become electronic and the traditional warfare defenses are useless against them. As I have pointed out in the past, “new cyber dimensions need to be thoroughly understood, analyzed, and defended.”

Today’s software capabilities used in anti-virus programs and cyber-defense do not cover all the possibilities in cyber threats and attacks within electronic warfare.

Global net superiority is something we need to establish as a goal for the immediate future for both the public and private sectors. Global net superiority spans across government and the private sector with a higher level of security than the current 90% coverage of existing anti-virus software. We need to get another 5% to 8% protection and coverage so a higher percentage of attacks will fail.

Just as we have had air superiority since the 1940s, we need to develop global net superiority for the electronic battlefield. As mentioned in the whitepaper, “Hit the Beach!” has been replaced by “Hit the Grid!”

In addition to the whitepaper, an interview in 2020 focused on getting the United States to a higher state of cyberdefenses for electronic warfare and asymmetric warfare by investing in global net superiority.

Resources are scarce when it comes to qualified personnel to develop these types of electronic defenses and instead of approaching cyberdefenses from an individual branch of service approach, it is much better to pool the military resources and concentrate on a unified approach.

Creating a cyber-umbrella for cities

Many cities are claiming to be smart or on a pathway to becoming smart, but if they do not account for having the right software-based protection installed in their infrastructure, they will find out how dumb they really are when the first cyberattack occurs and they lose operations in airports, mass transit facilities and other layers of their infrastructure.

Cyberwarfare across intelligent infrastructure supporting private-sector companies, government agencies, and smart cities creates a new complex array of targets in every major city and region.

This is an area of infrastructure protection projects that should receive major bipartisan support in Congress and a commitment to implement a plan or at least establish some preliminary framework to create real protective measures as we become more immersed in electronic warfare.

From an international perspective, there is a need to address these new forms of electronic warfare, which can cripple the entire nation.

Cyberattacks are on the rise across the globe and the request from President Biden to Vladimir Putin to put certain areas of critical infrastructure “off-limits” is unlikely to happen or be unilaterally agreed upon among all the world powers like the Geneva Convention.

When it comes to artificial intelligence-based weapons or other electronic cyber weapons, there is no equivalent to the Geneva Convention. No government is restricting or limiting their capabilities at this time and the idea of coming to the table to agree to that will never happen. Too many rogue states and terrorist groups see their advantage in asymmetric warfare and they will not adhere to any restrictions.

This will not be the last cyber-attack we encounter and the big question to municipalities as well as private companies become “are you prepared for cyberwarfare and do you have adequate defenses for it?”

James Carlini is a strategist for mission critical networks, technology, and intelligent infrastructure. Since 1986, he has been president of Carlini and Associates. Besides being an author, keynote speaker, and strategic consultant on large mission critical networks including the planning and design for the Chicago 911 center, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor networks, and the international network for GLOBEX, he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University.