The Future of Cyberwarfare

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Tyler Cowen has a question:

Didn’t it just come out in The Washington Post that the United States helped attack Iran with Flame, Stuxnet and related programs? If they did this to us, wouldn’t we consider it an act of war? Didn’t we just take a major step toward militarizing the internet? Doesn’t it seem plausible to you that the cyber-assault is not yet over and thus we face immediate questions looking forward? Won’t somebody fairly soon try to do it to us? Won’t it encourage substitution into more dangerous biological weapons?

I do understand that these are fairly superficial questions and that I do not have the expertise to write a detailed and insightful blog post on these topics. Still, it seems odd not to mention them at all. While I read in limited circles, I do not see many writers devoting much attention to the matter. Shouldn’t this have set off a large-scale national debate?

My take is this: we’ve all but declared war on Iran already, and everyone knows it. We’ve assassinated their scientists, imposed crippling sanctions, and essentially declared that we’re ready to mount a massive air strike against them in the near future. Under those circumstances, a bit of cyberwarfare hardly seems like a huge escalation.

What’s more, we all assume that other countries, China especially, are already hard at work on digital weapons. Our intelligence services have been warning about a “cyber Pearl Harbor” since before 9/11. It’s not a taboo area. So when the open secret that we’re working on this stuff becomes an even more open secret, hardly anybody really cares about this non-news.

They probably should, though.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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