Since the invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022, by Russia and the alignment of the axis of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, the global foreign policy landscape has shifted significantly. The weakness by many of the current western administration in the face of raising threats has strategic allies seeking refuge in the new axis and this goes against all principles of defending western interests in the aftermath of covid and the global supply chain challenges in these trying times.
I am going to make a case in this article that the US administration and other western governments speak a lot and do very little. This opinion may not be popular among some of my readers but I want to present the facts of this article, but one must face the facts and discuss those in an open manner.
Here are facts that I base this article upon:
1. The United States, Europe and allies’ economies are all in a recession or will be there shortly.
2. Weak Foreign policy that is sanction driven has opened the door to aggressive behavior by the axis of Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea (see next bullet point).
3. The US Dollar losing its global status will hinder many current and future vital US policies and interests.
4. Weakness and indecision have led to a power vacuum that’s being filled by China.
5. Tik Tok and others technological tools from organizations like Huawei used in espionage are giving a trove of information and influence for foreign actors to destabilize western society, mainly driven by China.
6. The lack of alignment between western allies based on political divisiveness has hindered any cohesive response to this.
7. The recent leak of pentagon files shows how fragile our most established government agencies are.
The economic weakness and inflation play into several facts that have opened the door for China to target the global strength of the United States over the last 80 years, the United States Dollar. Many nations are trading in local currency or using RMB (China’s National Currency) as the main trading currency and ditching the Dollar in mass. In fact, BRICS just surpassed the G7 in annual gross GDP.
Why does this matter?
The strategy proposed to fighting cybercrime in the National Cybersecurity Strategy released by the White House and President Biden last month called on international partnerships to stop cybercrime and criminals abroad and the main negotiation tactic used by the State Department has been the threat of sanctions on non-Cooperating governments.
Many cybercrime host nations now moving away from the Dollar, and the threat of sanctions becomes a weak card to play. Countries like India, Pakistan, Brazil, and Sri Lanka to name a few who operate thousands of fraudulent call centers that target civilians in the US, UK and Australia and lead to losses in the Billions annually (see my last post on the FBI IC3 report) will continue to operate and likely with little repercussions locally given the non-dependency on the US Dollar and the general weakness seen of the current United States government and its policies.
China has a 100-year strategy to overtaking the west and President Xi Jinping who has solidified himself and the eternal ruler of the CCP and China has been moving with this strategy at a faster pace recognizing the weakness in the west and advancing their agenda at record speed. China has been the weak point for the Bush, Obama, Partially Trump and now the Biden administration. The Trump administration worked slowly to counteract China, meanwhile the Chinese moved faster than the Trump administration did and now have the Biden administration cornered especially given the Afghanistan withdrawal and the view of a faltering US leadership globally. However, all leaders have failed to take direct action against China which is why we find ourselves in this position today.
You might ask yourself what does this mean for cybersecurity practitioners and professionals?
This writing on the wall is simple, this weakness by most of the Western government is going to lead to more cyber events and more threats on organizations, across all critical sectors in the economy. This is warfare without firing a shot, without injuring or killing a soul and leads to the eventual economical death of these nations, organizations, and populations. The smart idea is we don’t value data like life, our media doesn’t cover cybersecurity data breaches the same way it does other topics. Many practitioners and professionals work hard to explain cybersecurity, but the message still hasn’t resonated to the masses, and we need the help of media outlets to explain this in more laymen terms to help the masses understand.
When cybercriminals don’t have anything to fear and see the shift by major US allies towards the BRICS nations, you can bet they are going to see this an opportunity to continue to strike and take greater risk by targeting organizations they wouldn’t normally or launching the type of attacks that they wouldn’t have previously. This will lead to some significant challenges for practitioners and their teams at a time when many organizations are experiencing budget cuts, staff layoffs and supply chain challenges when we were already short staff and underfunded before the recent cuts. Go to Fact number 1 in case you missed it.
Meanwhile, many practitioners are working hard to build an effective private/public relationship with partners in various US government agencies like CISA, FBI and Secret Service and their equivalent across the globe for multinational organizations. These partnerships strive when the public side has teeth and can really help the private in ensuring it can defend itself from these threat actors and give them reassurances in information sharing and legal action.
The current path we are traveling on is going to find that the lack of teeth by the public sector to do anything is going to create speed bumps in the relationship building and potentially hinder it from taking place to be effective all together.
This reminds me of one of the worst polices ever when it came to cybersecurity by any government: The Obama administration “name and shame policy”. The least effective policy ever, especially considering the fact we were naming the threat actors mostly FSB or Chinese Spies we want to get and thus ensuring they don’t travel or go anywhere since they know we could reach them and potentially face arrest and extraditions and bring them to justice or at least be able to interrogate them to get significant intelligence on the activities of our enemies.
The recent leak of documents from the Pentagon hinders the private/public relationship even more. These leaks invite questions over the information we share with our government partners in the joint cybercrime fight, lead to additional bureaucratic steps that slow down or stop the exchange of critical information to help secure national interests among companies in the same vertical. Cybersecurity is a multiteam sport and requires friends, partners, and information from multiple partners to be successful.
What needs to happen now to realign:
1. The Biden administration must reverse course now and fast. We need to reduce the national debt, admit the current economic challenges facing our nation and work with congress to build a bi-partisan plan to strengthen the US Dollar and align our allies to tackle these challenges head on.
2. Congress must act now to ban Tik Tok and other Chinese technological assets from the United States and the Restrict Act is a significant overreach that will meet a lot of resistance. This bill is simple, China poses a national security threat to the United States and all these technologies and apps must be banned from use immediately.
3. Private companies ought to sound the alarm to the weakness of US foreign policy and move to push for a more aggressive approach towards nations that host cybercrime and find other ways to tax them for allowing this to continue for example:
a. Limit work and travel visas from those nations.
b. Cut down trade and levy tariffs on their imports to the US.
c. Use mutually beneficial information sharing to close the gap and rebuild the trust.
d. Provide clear leadership on the global stage and build a coalition of nations that will join the fight against the BRICS nations.
I wish I had better things to write about and the truth is I do. But this seems so pressing now, the more I read these intel briefings, the more I wonder just when we will wake up from this tailspin we are in and focus on what we need to do. We need to answer these questions with clear plans and this shouldn’t be about what party or politics, this is the national interest of anyone who loves their country and its population: How do we secure our countries, organizations, lives, and economies from those seeking to steal away the wealth and lead the world with tyranny, disinformation and targeting free speech.
Make no mistake, no country is perfect, but I believe western civilization has done more good then evil for this world and we ought to be defending it at every turn and to do that we need our elected leaders to put their differences a side and address the giant elephant in the room before it’s too late.