This year, the Pentagon will spend $2 billion on weapons to protect the United States from growing threats in outer space, only a fraction of a larger $5 billion investment in space warfare (1). Once merely a staple of science fiction films and conspiracy theories, space warfare has become a serious matter of national security. The prospect of an actual war in space first became a concern for the U.S. in 2007, when China clearly demonstrated their ability to wage war beyond the boundaries of the Earth’s atmosphere (2). As part of a military experiment, China demolished one of their own satellites in “a burst of energy that, if it were visible light instead of infrared, would have been a hundred thousand times brighter than the sun” (2). In the years following the demonstration, the U.S., China, and Russia have all directed large amounts of resources towards further developments in space warfare. In a defense report written in November 2015, the U.S. actually singled out China’s Counterspace Program as a focal point for the military (2).
While we can take some comfort in existing limitation agreements such as the 1966 Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits the use of nuclear warfare and “other weapons of mass destruction” in space (3), the treaty offers no protection from quieter attacks that need not involve actual explosives to do serious damage (1). As military journalist David Axe writes, “It’s hard to say exactly how many weapons are in orbit…With the proverbial flip of a switch, an inspection satellite, ostensibly configured for orbital repair work, could become a robotic assassin capable of taking out other satellites with lasers, explosives or mechanical claws. Until the moment it attacks, however, the assassin spacecraft might appear to be harmless” (2).
Axe’s point of course raises the unnerving suspicion of whether there are existing “sleeper weapons” already out in orbit, simply waiting for the right moment to strike (2). More than any other country, the U.S. military relies heavily on satellites, a vulnerability that our potential enemies are well aware of. As China and Russia gain the ability to disable American satellites with increasingly advanced anti-satellite technology that is not always detectable, the U.S. must act quickly to ensure they are prepared to fight back in the face of an attack (1).
(1) Palmer, Coburn. "Pentagon Spending $2 Billion on Weaponized Satellites to Fight War in Space." Inquisitr.com. The Inquisitr, 24 Mar. 2016. Web. 24 June 2016. <http://www.inquisitr.com/2920300/pentagon-2-billion-weaponized-satellites-war-in-space/>.
(2) Manaugh, Geoff. "The Growing Risk of a War in Space." Theatlantic.com. The Atlantic, 21 June 2016. Web. 24 June 2016. <http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/06/weaponizing-the-sky/488024/>.
(3) "The Outer Space Treaty." Unoosa.org. United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, 2016. Web. 24 June 2016. <http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introouterspacetreaty.html>.
Image: © Pixac | Dreamstime.com - <a href="https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-satellite-earth-image9960534#res14972580">Satellite and earth</a>
As of this very moment, an estimated 4.9 billion smart devices are connected to the internet (1). For reference, that’s 1.7 billion more things than humans that are currently accessing in cyberspace (1). When smart technology was first introduced into our everyday lives through the smartphone, it was revolutionary. Now, we don’t even call our cellphones smartphones anymore, because the idea of having a cellphone that can’t think for you is, well, unthinkable.
In 2016, we don’t just have smart cellphones; we have smart cars, smart refrigerators, smart television systems, smart watches, smart Barbie dolls, smart parking meters, smart streetlights, smart cameras, smart thermostats, smart fire alarms, smart sprinkler systems, smart light bulbs, smart speakers, smart dog collars, smart baby monitors, and smart door locks, just to name a few. Smart objects like these that have the ability to communicate and share information via Wi-Fi or the internet are collectively referred to as the Internet of Things, or IoT (1). Not only does the IoT make our lives easier and more efficient, but it also boosts our economy, creating jobs and adding trillions of dollars to the global GDP. In fact, GE Digital estimated in 2015 that the IoT is likely to add 15 trillion dollars to the global GDP by 2035 (1).
Undoubtedly, the IoT has the potential to do great things for us in the future, but the question remains whether it is safe (2). The IoT is transforming the way we go about our everyday lives at an alarming rate, most notably in the automobile and healthcare market, where smart technology is in increasingly high demand (1). In an interview with NBC News, Tripwire security expert Lane Thames warned, “While the emergence of new smart products might be exciting, very few of these devices are designed and developed with cybersecurity and data privacy in mind. Often, a skilled hacker can break into a new IoT device within a matter of days, if not hours (3).” These days, hackers don’t need sophisticated skills nor do they need a lot of money to do serious damage, which is why we must take extra precautions to protect ourselves from security breaches. As Thames suggests, the idea of a hacker having access to your car or television is frightening enough (3). But as the IoT becomes increasingly integrated into our healthcare system with technology like patient monitoring, we also have to worry about hackers gaining access to our most sensitive personal information (3). According to a report published last year by the Raytheon and Websense Security Labs, the healthcare industry already faces 340 percent more cyber attacks than the average industry (3).
While there are plenty of private security companies out there working to prevent cyber attacks, the rapidly growing IoT might necessitate government involvement in cybersecurity measures (3). According to Jeff Hill, Spokesperson for STEALTHbits Technologies, “As international cyber threats increase and cyber warfare tactics are increasingly used by America’s high profile enemies—ISIS, North Korea, Iran—the pressure to do something at the federal level will provide politicians an attractive issue in an election year (3).” In order to prevent the collective of security weaknesses in the IoT from becoming a weapon in the hands of our enemies, the government will need to take action. Unfortunately, however, formulating a standard security protocol for all devices that transmit and receive information takes time. Achieving consensus from every company that makes products with smart technology is no small task, but it is one that the government must undertake in light of the rampant growth of the IoT (1).
(1) Whyte, Alisa Valudes. "The Future of the Internet of Things Is Amazing, If We Don't Muck It Up." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 25 Nov. 2015. Web. 16 June 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alisa-valudes-whyte-/the-internet-of-things-future_b_8640360.html>.
(2) Weise, Elizabeth. "Hacking the Internet of Things Looms over CES." Usatoday.com. USA Today, 4 Jan. 2016. Web. 16 June 2016. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2016/01/01/internet-of-things-security-privacy-concerns/78035646/>.
(3) Wagstaff, Keith. "Hack to the Future: Experts Make 2016 Cybersecurity Predictions." Nbcnews.com. NBC News, 2 Jan. 2016. Web. 16 June 2016. <http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/internet/hack-future-experts-make-2016-cybersecurity-predictions-n486766>.
Image: © Nils Ackermann | Dreamstime.com - <a href="http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-illustration-internet-things-iot-cloud-computing-concept-connected-devices-world-wide-web-vector-illustration-icons-image64419235#res14972580">Internet of things (IOT) and cloud computing concept for connected devices in the world wide web</a>
In January 2011, the United States signed an agreement with the People’s Republic of China establishing the Center of Excellence in Nuclear Security (CoE) in China. The agreement allows the U.S. Department of Energy and the Chinese Atomic Energy Authority to collaborate in the field of nuclear innovation and security, with a special emphasis on training. According to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, “This agreement reflects the commitment of the two governments to strengthen their cooperation in nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear security, and in combating nuclear terrorism and represents a major step forward in implementing the global nuclear security outlined by our two Presidents (1).”
In March 2016, the U.S. and China reinforced the ties formed through the CoE by releasing a joint statement announcing their intent to continue to join forces in nuclear security. The statement outlines a handful of focal points for the U.S. and China, including the development of more advanced nuclear reactors, initiatives to counter nuclear smuggling by terrorist organizations, and preventative measures to reduce the dangers associated with nuclear radioactivity (2).
When asked about the security relationship between the U.S. and China following a series of nuclear summit meetings in March, President Barack Obama said that the two countries are particularly dedicated to the “denuclearization” of North Korea (3). However, in light of the unfriendly history between the U.S. and North Korea, attempts at stabilizing the Korean Peninsula have proved difficult. Although the United Nations Security Council has already issued several sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear program beginning in 2003, North Korea has continued to display nuclear aggression ever since the U.S. used nuclear threats against the regime in the Korean War (4). Nonetheless, President Obama has expressed that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping are looking to the UN to enforce further sanctions on North Korea (3). Despite the U.S. and China’s collaboration and the support they have received from the UN against North Korea, North Korea continues to push back, conducting more missile tests in violation of the UN sanctions. In an informal letter vilifying China’s involvement with the sanctions, the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of North Korea reportedly called for an unabashed nuclear confrontation with China (3). According to North Korean foreign minister Lee Su-Yong, “In response to the U.S. frenzied hysteria for unleashing a nuclear war…we state resolutely about the readiness to deliver a pre-emptive nuclear strike (3).” For the U.S. and the international polity as a whole to remain strong in the face of North Korea’s hostility, it is crucial that China participate in spite of the nuclear threats. Only with serious pressure from China, North Korea’s most important trading partner, can the UN hope for some compliance from North Korea (5).
(1) "U.S., China Sign Agreement to Establish Center of Excellence on Nuclear Security." Nnsa.energy.gov. The National Nuclear Security Administration, 19 Jan. 2011. Web. 10 June 2016. <https://nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/pressreleases/chinacenterofexcellence01.19.11>.
(2) "U.S.-China Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Cooperation." Whitehouse.gov. The White House, 31 Mar. 2016. Web. 10 June 2016. <https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/03/31/us-china-joint-statement-nuclear-security-cooperation>.
(3) Sandhu, Serina. "North Korea Threatens 'Nuclear Storm' Against China as Ally Makes Pact with US." The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 31 Mar. 2016. Web. 10 June 2016. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-and-china-agree-to-oppose-north-korea-nuclear-programme-a6962901.html>.
(4) "North Korea." Nti.org. The Nuclear Threat Initiative, Apr. 2016. Web. 10 June 2016. <http://www.nti.org/learn/countries/north-korea/nuclear/>.
(5) Gaffey, Conor. "North Korea Fires Another Missile as U.S. and China Agree to Cooperate on Nuclear Threat." Newsweek.com. Newsweek, 1 Apr. 2016. Web. 10 June 2016. <http://www.newsweek.com/north-korea-missile-barack-obama-xi-jinping-442899>.
Image: © Gordeev20 | Dreamstime.com - <a href="http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-north-korea-soldier-image26048705#res14972580">North Korea soldier</a>
On May 15, 2016, India test fired a supersonic interceptor missile, much to the dismay of Pakistan. The 7.5-meter, 1.2-ton solid fuel interceptor missile, nicknamed “Ashwin,” was built with its own mobile launch mechanism along with advanced homing and tracking capabilities (1). Although post-flight analysis is still being conducted to determine the efficacy of the new technology, India’s publicized interest in developing an anti-ballistic missile defense system has certainly caught the attention of Pakistani authorities. In a study conducted by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India was ranked sixth in military expenditures worldwide, allotting $51.3 billion to the military in 2015 (2).
If India’s new project is successful, they will be the fourth country to have effectively created an anti-ballistic missile defense shield, following the United States, Russia, and Israel (1). Advisor to Pakistani Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz was quoted on Radio Pakistan commenting that, “such a missile test disturbs the regional balance of power,” and that Pakistan intends to proliferate its defensive measures to compete with India (3). Tension between India and Pakistan has been high ever since the 1999 Kargil War over Kashmir, during which both countries reportedly positioned ballistic missiles against one another, albeit a full-blown war never erupted between them (4).
During this time, rumors about Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities provoked an international response, leading the U.S. to advise India against further military involvement across the international border. India conceded, withdrawing from the conflict and signing the New Framework for the U.S.-India Defense Relationship (NFDR) in 2005. NFDR gave India the opportunity to develop an anti-ballistic missile defense system with help from the U.S., a strong gesture in favor of bilateral ties with India (4). The pact was renewed in June of 2015, reinforcing those ties and reminding Pakistan that India is a force to be reckoned with. The establishment and renewal of NFDR represents a significant power shift in South Asia in favor of India. As India refines their anti-ballistic missile defense shield, nuclear deterrence—once a powerful tactical device for Pakistan—is no longer a threat (4). Faced with this reality, Pakistan must move quickly if they are to remain a formidable adversary to India, making it likely that they will look to buy their own anti-ballistic missile defense shield as soon as possible (4). Pakistan may look to buy defense technologies off of the U.S., though it is highly unlikely that the U.S. will comply in light of NFDR. Hence, the renewal of NFDR not only heightens competition between India and Pakistan, but in doing so also increases tension between the Pakistan and the U.S., who must continue to remain loyal to India. Simply stated, every step India takes towards developing a successful anti-ballistic missile defense shield is a step towards gaining the upper hand on Pakistan. The resulting tilt in the South Asian balance of power potentially leaves the prospect of a formal war between India and Pakistan up to India, launching Pakistan back to the drawing board.
(1) "AAD Interceptor Missile Successfully Test Fired off Odisha Coast." Odishasuntimes.com. Odisha Sun Times, 15 May 2016. Web. 1 June 2016.
(2) Cawis, Jereal. "Total World Military Spending Hits $1.7 Trillion In 2015: Here's A List Of The Top 15 Spenders." Techtimes.com. Tech Times, 08 Apr. 2016. Web. 01 June 2016.
(3) Bhat, Aditya. "India Augments Its Ballistic Missile Defence Shield, Test-fires Indigenous Interceptor Missile." Ibtimes.co.in. International Business Times, 16 May 2016. Web. 01 June 2016.
(4) Rashid, Dr. Qaisar. "India's Anti-ballistic Missile Defence Shield." Dailytimes.com/pk. Dailytimes, 18 May 2016. Web. 31 May 2016.
Image: © Chen Li | Dreamstime.com - <a href="http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-air-defense-missile-weapon-efficient-modern-war-image50499735#res14972580">Air defense missile</a>
Iliana Arbeed is a student at the University of Southern California originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Law with a double minor in International Relations and Italian. She is involved in several campus organizations including University Student Government, and spends her summers pursing business and legal internships and traveling abroad. Outside of USC, she has studied at Oxford University and is looking forward to spending Summer 2017 at the American University of Rome. She started working with Global Intelligence Trust in 2016 as a Security and Legal Specialist prior to becoming an Editor. Her professional interests range from national security and intelligence to international law, and she plans to receive a combined law and business degree in the future. She aspires to work for the U.S. government or to work as a human rights lawyer for the United Nations.