Experts: Military still catching up to the benefits of the Internet

The Internet and related technologies will bring even more upheaval to modern life, experts say

By , IDG News Service |  Government

If members of the U.S. military and their families have seen major changes in their lives because of the Internet and related technologies, then they should expect even more upheaval, a group of tech experts said Thursday.

The Internet isn't done changing the way people learn and are entertained and the way government works, said a group of panelists speaking to the National Military Family Association in Arlington, Virginia. The Internet will also create new security problems, as cybercriminals find ways to attack electric grids and water systems and as the Internet takes power away from national governments, said Michael Hayden, former director of the U.S. National Security Agency and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

"You and I haven't caught up yet culturally ... with what this delivers to us," he said to the crowd, containing many senior military officials. "We're still trying to cope with the full potential of the information explosion."

Hayden, now a principal at security consulting firm the Chertoff Group, compared the changes brought by the Internet to the European discovery of the Western Hemisphere. "When have we seen something so disruptive to practically every aspect of human life?" he said. "This is a fundamental change."

Until the end of the 20th century, nearly all the important players on the global stage were nation states, Hayden noted. In the Industrial Age, "practically everything in national life" re-enforced the nation state, he said, but the Internet has changed the dynamic.

"In this era, practically all the external trends weaken the traditional unit of power, which is the nation state, and pushes power down ... to private enterprise and pushes power down even to individuals," he said.

The Internet has been "incredibly liberating and empowering for all of us," Hayden added. But it has also empowered cybercriminals and terrorists who wouldn't have raised concerned for national security officials a couple of decades ago, he said.

Hayden and Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, also said they expect a growing reliance on cyberwarfare. The creation of the Stuxnet malware, which attacked devices used by the Iranian nuclear program, was the first shot in a new era of cyberwarfare, Hayden said. Many security experts believe the U.S. or Israeli governments created Stuxnet.

The Internet will not only transform the way governments wage war, but also the way government does other business, said Vivek Kundra, former CIO in President Barack Obama's administration. Kundra predicted "algorithmic regulations" that replace some traditional lawmaking by congressional bodies.

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