The emerging future of military cybersecurity technology involves machines that can self-direct, self-protect and self-evolve but what are the risks and benefits? More importantly, could these weapons be turned against us?
As automation advances, IT and cybersecurity professionals are securing and protecting more technologies and industries than ever before, with the rising convenience of automation potentially bringing accompanying risks and vulnerabilities.
One notable area that is becoming increasingly automated is defense, with the U.S. military looking for ways to take advantage of the latest technologies, despite the potential risks.
The next wave of U.S. defense technology is machinery that can be operated by autonomous cyber systems. As these systems are still in the development stage, the risks and threats related to them are largely unknown. However, based on a promising start, experts predict fully mature technologies in around 10 years. So, what’s involved in these technologies and what implications could they have for cybersecurity?
The Future Is Now
One of the reasons for shoring up this area of military defense is the need to keep up with cyber criminals and other groups that may pose threats.
In a report by the Center for a New American Security titled 20YY: Preparing for War in the Robotic Age, authors Robert O. Work and Shawn Brimley state: “U.S. defense strategists and force planners are confronted by a rapidly approaching future in which guided munitions and battle networking technologies have proliferated widely and are employed by both state and non-state actors across the full range of military operations.
“U.S. defense leaders should begin to prepare now for this not so distant future – for war in the Robotic Age.”
The U.S. has already used technology like drones and robot pack mules in air and ground applications. Defense in the future will rely more on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning systems that autonomously interact with targets and enemy AI systems.
The combination of these technologies can enable systems to incorporate learned information that automatically strengthens the network as a whole. Needless to say, such systems will need to maintain a high level of information security.
These technologies are not without risk. Cyber technology is prone to cyber crime and to being used against itself and against its own programmers. Therefore, cybersecurity will also become critical in this field.
Other unknown risks include not knowing exactly how such systems will behave or evolve, given their autonomous and self-directing nature.
New Players in Defense Development
Automated technologies – including advanced computing, big data, artificial intelligence and miniaturization, among others – are being driven not by the military-industrial complex that has historically developed military hardware.
Instead, these technologies are being produced by the same companies that have been offering consumer-based and business-to-business electronic services and the information security needed to keep them safe.
These contributors to automation can be combined with the advanced stealth systems, electric weapons and communications still being manufactured by traditional defense companies.
Technology in Waiting
In a recent podcast episode from Avascent, security experts Linton Wells and Chris Meissner explained that, based on the current trajectory, the technology for enabling cyber autonomy is still in its early stages and will take around 10 years to fully mature.
Yet, Work and Brimley note: “To a degree that U.S. force planners are simply not accustomed to, other global actors are in a position to make significant headway toward a highly robotic war-fighting future in ways that could outpace the much bigger and slow-moving U.S. defense bureaucracy.”
This means the U.S. should look to prepare as quickly as possible for ways to adapt to this new information security and defense landscape, as well as its potential cyber crime threats and cybersecurity requirements.
As the new year begins, autonomous and cyber defense will be key cybersecurity trends to watch in 2017.
To find out more about how cyber warfare and autonomous defense systems will alter international relations and the future of cybersecurity, invest in your own education and start learning today.