America’s two oceans that once symbolized an enduring national myth of invulnerability from faraway health disasters and malevolent threats no longer offer any such illusion.
Two huge game changers, trans-ocean airliners and a globally-wired-together, AI-empowered Internet of Things, have rendered previous geographical separations and territorial boundary controls defensively impotent against highly-infectious new breeds of biological viruses and digital malware that share many dangerous characteristics.
These invisible natural and diabolically-invented agents of widespread dread, death and destruction spare no populations.
Nor, since they constantly evolve to exploit new victim vulnerabilities, are there any permanent interventions.
Our only defenses — both as Americans and as members of an interconnected and mutually-impacted global community — are to preemptively anticipate and use all available and rapidly emerging technological means to “out think” them.
While asserting no special medical background, the fundamental ways that bio and cyber viruses operate appear to be remarkably similar. My very recent book “Cyberwarfare: Targeting America, Our Infrastructure, and Our Future” (2020) discusses the latter features in expansive detail.
For starters, whereas cyberattacks can travel unimpeded by porous physical and political boundaries at the speed of light, bio attacks nevertheless also travel quite rapidly at the speed of a single modern jetliner.
Upon arrival, both can at once transport and immediately distribute infectious payloads to widely-dispersed targets.
Once delivered via an airborne droplet or surface contact, a bio virus attaches itself to the outer wall of a human or animal cell, enters inside, merges with its instruction genes, and tricks it into explosively producing millions of copies of itself.
Each member of the resulting viral micro-zombie army of new invaders then marches off to repeat the same act of parasitic subterfuge on another unwary cell.
Cyber viruses apply the same sneaky tactic to trick a victim’s computer into executing the attacker’s commands rather than those of the intended software program.
The most fundamental and ubiquitous hacking strategy uses “phishing” to trick email and website users to turn over secret passwords and other data that allows culprits to access proprietary personal, corporate, and even top secret government security information.
“Distributed Denial of Service” (DDoS) cyber hacking attacks release a “botnet” from a vast “malware zoo” of malicious and malevolent viruses to infect and create thousands, or even millions, of zombie computers that overwhelm computational bandwidth resources of a subsystem such as within web servers connected to the “Internet of Things” (IoT).
Comparable to catastrophic bio pandemics, military and civilian intelligence organizations routinely prepare cyber battlefields with virtual computer explosives in the form of “logic bombs” and “trapdoors” placing viral invaders in other countries’ power grids, financial and communications networks, and other critical utility infrastructures.
Computer viruses of particularly insidious concern are “worms” with “back doors” that enable attacks to be timed and executed at will. “Zero-day” malware attacks and exploits previously unknown weaknesses/defenses before screening filters can be implemented.
Similarly, many biological viruses — such as COVID-19 — frequently get a big jump start on multiplying in their human host prior to – or without ever experiencing – any alarming tell-tale symptoms. Meanwhile, they may inadvertently spread their virulent occupants to numerous others.
Cyberwarfare represents another looming viral pandemic.
With more than 140 countries now believed to be developing weaponized cyber viruses, global offensive developments are wildly outpacing defenses.
As a result, America’s extensive electronic infrastructure dependence comes with the disadvantage of being the glassiest house in a low-cost stone fight.
Former U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has publicly stated that the Russian government have already penetrated the control systems of some U.S. electric power companies, that we are in a period similar to the months before 9/11, and that “the warning lights are blinking red.”
Chinese government hackers are known to have penetrated thousands of communications networks in the United States and tens of thousands around the world including numerous national embassies. U.S. intelligence officials have reported that China operatives have also prospectively inserted destructive malware into the U.S. power grid.
Bio and cyber defensive strategies are essentially the same: proactive detection and analytics; firewall filters and “air-gap” isolations; and responsive interceptions and neutralizations.
Ultra-high-speed 5G networks in combination with expansive IoT connectedness and AI will supercharge America’s vulnerabilities where every new activity provides a new attack vector. By comparison, China’s “Great Firewall” affords means to disconnect its slice of the Internet from foreign hackers and malware.
China’s global internet firewall also enables regime rulers to block inside and outside access to any disapproved information, just as they have done in withholding timely and vital COVID-19 information.
AI advances, quantum supercomputing in particular, must be key frontline bio and cyber defenses in America’s national security arsenal to undertake real-time mapping and tracking the viral diseases before any next big outbreak.
China has aggressively stepped up its pace in quantum research with a main goal to surpass the United States as the global 5G and AI leader.
We can’t defenselessly allow that to happen.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of several books, including “Cyberwarfare: Targeting America, Our Infrastructure, and Our Future” (2020), “The Weaponization of AI and the Internet: How Global Networks of Infotech Overlords are Expanding Their Control Over Our Lives” (2019), “Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity” (2019), “Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations” (2018), “Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful” (2017), “Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self” (2016), “Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom” (2015) and “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax” (2011). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, “Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles.” To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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