A cyber-attack against the United States could be worse than a nuclear strike: Pentagon adds’ digital’ weapons to the WMD list

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Last year, the United States found itself inundated with headlines on intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of nuclear power. The Americans lived with the specter of a nuclear attack for the first time since the Cold War, with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un testing a series of missiles and nuclear devices aimed specifically at developing the ability to strike the United States.

For many it was the first time in their generation that a foreign nation offered the American peoples such a direct threat. Despite sporadic terror attacks, the American public has for decades been isolated from war through a powerful military apparatus and beneficial geography— North Korea’s nuclear program may not be particularly robust, but it was a bullet with the name of the American people, which tends to attract attention.

Despite the ongoing debate about the serious nature of Kim’s denuclearization, the ongoing threat of nuclear attack has largely passed; allowing Americans to return to their normal lives… but in the Pentagon, defense officials have not enjoyed such relief. Although the nuclear threat from North Korea may have decreased, another more pressing concern remains. Unlike the nuclear threat, we will not be able to detect it from space, and no firepower can stop it. We won’t see it fired in recognition feeds.

We’re not gonna see massive testing in remote parts of the world. The Pentagon is worried about the next weapon of mass destruction that has no trigger or detonator, and nations could foresee it without the massive investment required by traditional WMDs. Cyber-attacks are now potentially the greatest threat to the American people, not nuclear weapons or biological agents, and the Pentagon is seeking help in developing ways to combat them.

“A new perspective is needed to address this problem, “reads a new request from the Defense Department.” It should include independent organizations that are not anchored in traditional definition and doctrinal concepts of the WMD.

“Soil would be devastating, approximately 100 kilotons of the largest and most powerful hydrogen bomb in Kim’s arsenal.” This means that even if Kim could deliver the warhead to the center of New York City (which is extremely unlikely, especially since they never seemed to have perfected their reentry vehicle), you would be safe at LaGuardia International Airport.

On the other hand, a cyber-attack could shut down the whole town instantly and without warning. Confirmed Russian infiltration of the American electric grid earlier this year confirms that this one (among many) element of cyber warfare is already in practice among the opponents of America. However, although the DoD acknowledges the seriousness of this threat, they are not quite sure how to mitigate it. That’s where the request comes in.

“DTRA seeks to bring together a group of private industry, government and academic organizations in a threat / future workshop to help fuel this innovative environment, facilitating the deconstruction of the cyber – threat intersection with WMD into manageable component issues capable of developing a potential way forward,” he reads. The Pentagon hopes to move this project forward in March 2019.

Mark Funk
Mark Funk is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.