Here, too, enemies of the U.S. are making strides. The former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the Senate that important computers are routinely hacked into and that cyber attacks are happening on an “unprecedented scale with extraordinary sophistication.” One government report from November 2008 warned that China’s cyber warfare capabilities had become so advanced that the U.S. “may be unable to counteract or even detect the efforts” and that a successful cyber offensive “could paralyze the United States.”
North Korea is placing a particularly emphasis on cyber warfare and has even carried out cyber attacks on South Korean and American government websites. A study in 2006 concluded that North Korea could potentially disable the Pacific Command’s computers and do major damage to the continental U.S. The North Korean regime’s cyber warfare school trains 100 new hackers for the government every year. The elite unit is said to rival the CIA’s own hackers and operate from a luxury hotel in China.
The U.S. cannot look at a country’s military or economy alone in assessing the threat it poses. The most important factor is intent. New ways of carrying out mass destruction like cyber warfare and EMP detonations means a hostile regime can do incalculable damage with a single nuclear-armed missile or team of hackers. Once such capabilities are acquired, all that stands between the U.S. and paralysis is one directive from a rogue or terrorist leader.
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