How to Get Ready for the Coming Cyber War

By Adam Levin

NEW YORK ( — This spring, the term “cyber war” turns 20. In his seminal 1993 paper Cyberwar is Coming! master military strategist John Arquilla envisioned an entirely new kind of battle.

That vision was articulated again, but as reality, in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address last week. The president’s call for a more serious approach to the growing threat of full-spectrum cyber war, or “cybergeddon,” came just a week before Mandiant, an American cyber security firm, released a 60-page report detailing a Chinese military unit in Shanghai that poses serious threats to U.S. infrastructure. The silver lining here is that the report bolsters the president’s initiative, which began Wednesday — a crucial step in the right direction for our union, as the state of things in the realm of cyber security are daily showing signs of collapse in the face of relentless foreign attacks against traditional war-time targets including utilities, newspapers, banks and essential government agencies.

The battlefield is everywhere: personal computers, bank accounts, 401(k)s and cash management accounts, drinking water, gasoline pipelines, electrical plants and dams. As news of major breaches roll in like waves on a storm-eroded beach, the likelihood increases that the next war we fight will be waged on computers aimed at crippling the systems that keep the wheels of government and daily life turning.

“There’s a strong likelihood that the next Pearl Harbor that we confront could very well be a cyber attack,” said Leon Panetta, the Secretary of Defense and former director of the CIA.

Are we prepared? How can we plan for, and survive, a Pearl Harbor-style attack on everyday life? There are two answers, one for the nation and one for America and one for Americans.

The first answer is that our lawmakers need to quit screwing around and do a better job.