February 28, 2020 • Volume 30, Issue 9
Can the U.S. and other democracies develop an effective defense?
By Reed Karaim


Cyberwarfare has become a crucial battleground between nations. This largely hidden conflict, which has echoes of the Cold War struggle between Western democracies and communist nations, involves a range of activities: from online disinformation campaigns to the use of sophisticated computer worms to disrupt or commandeer government and commercial computer systems. Russia, the United States, China, Iran and other nations all have probed and hacked into other countries' computer systems. Some U.S. officials worry about a “cyber Pearl Harbor,” in which an enemy launches a surprise cyberattack to disable key public utilities such as the power grid. But other analysts believe the greater danger lies in the way Russia manipulated social media to spread disinformation and worsen political divisions in the 2016 U.S. election as it worked to boost the campaign of President Trump. U.S. intelligence officials say that Russia is at it again, and experts warn that new technologies such as 5G high-speed wireless and artificial intelligence make defending against cyberattacks even harder.

A U.S. Air Force officer monitors aircraft (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Simon Dawson)
A U.S. Air Force officer monitors aircraft on a radar screen during a NATO exercise in Suffolk, U.K., in June. Experts warn that military computer systems are vulnerable to disruption from a cyberattack during a conflict. (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Simon Dawson)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Feb. 28, 2020  Cyberwarfare
Apr. 20, 2018  Technology Addiction
Oct. 06, 2017  Cyberwarfare Threat
Feb. 26, 2016  Virtual Reality
Feb. 12, 2016  Video Games and Learning
Jan. 15, 2016  The Dark Web
Feb. 15, 2013  Improving Cybersecurity
Apr. 13, 2012  Internet Regulation
Sep. 16, 2011  Computer Hacking
Sep. 24, 2010  Impact of the Internet on Thinking
Feb. 26, 2010  Cybersecurity
Aug. 01, 2008  Internet Accuracy
May 02, 2008  Cyberbullying
Jul. 28, 2006  Cyber Socializing
May 12, 2006  Controlling the Internet
Jun. 10, 2005  Identity Theft
Sep. 17, 2004  Cyberpolitics
Sep. 26, 2003  Cybersecurity
Apr. 12, 2002  Cyber-Crime
Oct. 27, 2000  Computers and Medicine
May 26, 2000  Future of Computers
Jan. 28, 2000  The Digital Divide
Feb. 05, 1999  Digital Commerce
Jun. 30, 1995  Regulating the Internet
May 21, 1993  Software Piracy
Sep. 30, 1988  Management's High-Tech Challenge
Jan. 09, 1987  Power Surge in Personal Computers
Feb. 13, 1981  The Computer Age
Nov. 03, 1978  America's Information Boom
Jan. 06, 1978  Computer Crime
May 12, 1971  Reappraisal of Computers
Jul. 25, 1962  Approach to Thinking Machines
Air Safety and Security
Campaigns and Elections
Cold War
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
Defense Technology and Force Planning
Emergency Preparedness
Imperialism, Colonization, and Independence Movements
International Law and Agreements
Internet and Social Media
Party Politics
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Regional Political Affairs: East Asia and the Pacific
Regional Political Affairs: Europe
Regional Political Affairs: Russia and the Former Soviet Union
Telecommunications and Wireless Technologies
Terrorism and Counterterrorism
U.S. at War: Cold War
War and Conflict