China’s military, the largest standing army in the world, has committed to a rigorous investment programme aimed at overhauling its defensive capabilities in the five years to 2020. What is most poignant about this undertaking is that significant resources are being dedicated to technologies and capabilities in the cyber realm rather than traditional, physical weaponry.
Put simply, China’s focus on cyber as the catalyst to its military transformation offers a bold statement about the world we currently inhabit and the path it is likely to continue along. Power and security is no longer defined by the number of soldiers, tanks, or physical weapons a military establishment has, but rather the access to and utilisation of information, and the ability to protect that information from others who might look to use it to inflict harm.
This changing paradigm also holds sway in the civilian and corporate world. We have witnessed technology companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and LinkedIn amass huge valuations in a relatively short period of time. They are considered to be more valuable than ‘old economy’ stalwarts such as Ford Motor Company that manufacture a great amount of physical output.
At the heart of the influence and success of the new corporate ‘super powers’ is their access to and use of information. Digital services are a tradeable currency, and parties that possess it prosper, and those that do not, flounder. Digitisation has a number of pre-requisites for continued development, and cyber security resilience, particularly for critical infrastructure, is one of the most important. Cyber security itself is no longer limited to just data centres, it is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle for national security.
Given the criticality of information, information systems, and the interconnectivity of everything; cyber security can thus no longer be viewed as a ‘nice-to-have’ element of modern digital economies, but rather it must become a central building block of society as we move towards smart cities and nations.
Ultimately, transactions in the digital world are only sustainable should trust be present and enforced. This is precisely the reason why we believe that more and better security and trust typically improves the entire operation of the information eco-system. If implemented correctly and consistently, cyber security is in fact a business enabler, and a GDP growth driver. The more secure entities and individuals feel in their digital environments, the more they will utilise them, generating more economic activity to all parties’ benefit.
The enormous gains that have and are set to be reaped from digital developments are limited only by imagination, and the ability for the system to work as intended. This takes on an even higher order of importance in the case of national infrastructure, where lives are directly at stake, meaning building cyber security resiliency into the DNA of the system is essential.
It is no exaggeration to state that safeguarding our exploding digital environments is one of the single most important undertakings of our time. An end-to-end, perpetual, pro-active, and informed approach to cyber security is imperative, and in all likelihood will define the cities, nations, and companies that succeed in the future from those that do not.