The digital–physical intersection

Can the U.S. defend a physical world that is becoming increasingly digital?

The boundaries between the physical and the digital worlds of conflict have been blurring for many years and will continue to do so at an ever increasing pace. More and more individuals have learned how to conduct espionage and launch attacks in the cyber domain. In a few instances, the cyber domain mirrors experiences that we have had in the physical world. In many cases, cyber capabilities can and are being used to augment physical world initiatives. There is strong evidence that this combined approach has increased the overall effectiveness of our intelligence and military forces.

Mission planners are busy finding new and innovative ways to leverage the best of both worlds in their military and intelligence efforts. Several knowledgeable sources have exclaimed that the possibilities seem endless. The implications of the combined efforts will only grow in importance as more countries become what have been termed “addicted” to integrating the Internet into virtually every aspect of their government, businesses and the lives of their citizens. Businesses are now embedding computing capabilities and connectivity into everything – eyeglasses, clothing and the applications are only limited by our creativity.

We have created a complex, technologically intense environment in which we live and work. There will be breakthrough applications coming out regularly at the digital and physical intersection. There is no going back. With all of the possibilities that this environment creates, it is critical we begin designing security into these systems from scratch and stop treating security as an afterthought or add-on. The greatest concern is whether the United States will have the technical resources (scientists, engineers and technicians) needed for what is ahead. With so much at stake, we had better make sure that we do.