'Landscape of warfare' shifting to cyber platforms, senators say

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., addresses the media at the Ambassador Bridge border crossing, Monday, March 27, 2017, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Images of war are often embodied by machine guns and tanks, but there’s a growing sense from many in Washington that the most effective weapons in future wars will be keyboards and computer screens.

“There are no cruise missiles, there are no tanks, there are no planes -- but you could undermine someone’s stock market, you could hack into it and crash it, you could cause a run on the banks so to speak,” said Kevin Freeman, author and founder of the National Security Investment Consultant Institute.

Freeman points to the book "Unrestricted Warfare," written by Chinese military officials in 1999.

“They said a single computer hacker might be more powerful than a nuclear bomb. They believe it’s a war,” Freeman said.

On Capitol Hill, there seems to be agreement among members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

“The FBI has identified the internet and social media as two of the greatest threats to the terrorism landscape,” said Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., during a hearing Wednesday.

In an interview after, Daines added that while the internet is often highly protected on a military level, everyday Americans are in danger, as evident in recent hacks of companies like Equifax, Uber and Yahoo.

“That’s what we’ve seen with some of these cyber-attacks. They’re not hitting the dot-mil addresses. They’re hitting the dot com accounts. They’re hitting businesses and they’re hitting families,” he said.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who also sits on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, seems to agree.

“Whether it’s recruiting a lone wolf or trying to influence public opinion in some ways, these are all very effective weapons. The landscape of warfare is clearly changing,” Sen. Peters said in an interview Wednesday.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are calling for more action not just by the government but with private companies. They say without their help, combating the cyber threat will be almost impossible.

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