When new capabilities cause a shift in the balance between offensive and defensive advantage – or even the perception of such a shift -, it could increase the incentives for aggression. For example, one of the pillars of nuclear deterrence is the "second strike" capability, which puts the following thought into the mind of an actor contemplating a nuclear attack: "even if I destroy my opponent's country totally, their submarines will still be around to take revenge". But suppose swarms of undersea drones were able to track and neutralize the submarines that launch nuclear missiles? Long-range aerial drones can already navigate freely across the oceans, and will be able to fly under the radar deep into enemy territory. Such capabilities make it possible in theory for an actor to escape the fear of second-strike retaliation, and feel safer in launching a pre-emptive strike against aircraft in their hangars, ships in port, and critical infrastructure, with practically no chance of early warning.
The ever-evolving technological landscape we all now live in throws up both benefits and challenges for those tasked with defending our most important utilities, networks and systems, and 2018 could well be the year we see previously theoretical attacks involving artificial intelligence (AI) or automation technologies realized. Aside from new technologies, there are several other challenges facing the protection of infrastructure throughout 2018 and, in this article, we've created our list of five of the most prominent challenges facing critical infrastructure protection in 2018. As our means of protection evolve, so do the ways in which they could be vulnerable or used against us. Remote access methods have shown this previously and artificial intelligence and automation may be about to do it again. In the case of AI, cybersecurity is a big deal.
Is artificial intelligence (AI) the solution to all of our critical infrastructure management problems? Or, put another way, is AI reward worth the AI risk? AI, of course, refers to the use of data-driven algorithms and machine learning to make automated decisions. Critical infrastructure means any kind of physical or virtual system that affects your health, well-being or safety. Power plants and hospitals are often given as examples of critical infrastructure.
A landmark emergency waiver granted by the FAA has allowed Verizon to deploy industrial drones to inspect their critical infrastructure during the US wildfires, ensuring first responders have reliable communications for disaster response. The drones are made by a company called Percepto, which are currently operating beyond-line-of-sight for this emergency deployment. The FAA granted Skyward, A Verizon company, a temporary waiver that allows company pilots to fly the Percepto Sparrow drone from their homes to inspect critical communications infrastructure near the Big Hollow wildfire in Washington. The waiver permits operations 24 hours a day, with less than 3 miles of visibility and no pilot or observer on site. This is the first time a Beyond the Visual Line Of Sight waiver has been granted that allows pilots to control the drone from home.
"The challenges the NIAC identified are well-known and reflected in study after study," the NIAC wrote. "There is a narrow and fleeting window of opportunity before a watershed, 9/11-level cyber-attack to organize effectively and take bold action. We call on the Administration to use this moment of foresight to take bold, decisive actions." While the warning from the advisory group was deadly serious, the NIAC presented several recommendations that could help prevent such a disaster from occurring. On the top of the to-do list provided by the council was establishing separate and secure networks for critical infrastructure, including building "dark fiber" networks for traffic from critical control systems, as well as backup communications protocols for emergencies.