Today In Prophecy:  Cyberwarfare and Cyberterrorism

March/April – 2015

Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.   (Joel 3:10)

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In July, 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama staged an exercise in which his cabinet, homeland security, intelligence and defense officials were faced with a cyber attack on U.S. public services such as trains and water treatment plants by unknown hackers a world away.  In a Wall Street Journal editorial, Mr. Obama wrote, “The cyber threat to our nation is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face.”

Two years later, that warning rang true when he commented on the hacking of Sony Pictures.  “I have now determined that the provocative, destabilizing and repressive actions and policies of the government of North Korea, including its destructive, coercive cyber-related actions (against SONY)…constitute a continuing threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States.”  Mr. Obama subsequently ordered the freeze of North Korean assets held in the U.S.

Keeping computer software up-to-date, using firewalls, and installing antivirus software is no longer effective security.  Professional “hackers” can find vulnerabilities and infect systems so that they remotely control them.  What was once only depicted in the movies has now become reality.  Cyber-warfare now supplements, or in some cases replaces, traditional warfare.  For example, Israeli hackers allegedly launched attacks on Iranian nuclear production facilities  through the use of the Stuxnet “worm.”

Professor Lillian Ablon, Pardee RAND Graduate School Professor, recently wrote in her blog, “2014 was the year the hack went viral. Retailers like Staples Inc., Neiman Marcus Inc., Michaels, Home Depot Inc., and eBay Inc. announced breaches, while millions of customers were helpless to stop the flow of credit card information and personal data to cyber attackers. But it wasn’t just retail giants: Firms in health care (Community Health Systems), finance (JPMorgan Chase & Co.), and entertainment (Sony Pictures) also fell victim to cyber attacks.”  Detecting attacks in time to prevent major losses so far has been challenging.  According to Verizon Communications, Inc. research, unrelated third parties discover an average of 70 to 80 percent of cyber attacks.

In his 2012 editorial, Mr. Obama concluded, “Foreign governments, criminal syndicates and lone individuals are probing our financial, energy and public safety systems every day…It doesn’t take much to imagine the consequences of a successful cyber attack.  In a future conflict, an adversary unable to match our military supremacy on the battlefield might seek to exploit our computer vulnerabilities here at home.  Taking
down vital banking systems could trigger a financial crisis.  The lack of clean water or functioning hospitals could spark a public health emergency…and the loss of electricity can bring businesses, cities and entire regions to a standstill.”

” The Global Risks report of 2014 issued by The World Economic Forum  included an analysis of what it terms “cybergeddon” due to the increased number of world citizens connecting online (see Today in Prophecy, January/February 2014).

Leading to Armageddon

“And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east (literally, kings from the sunrising) might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great
day of God Almighty.  Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Revelation 16:12-16).

The recent spate of cyber-attacks is another indicator of the serious danger of an increasing inter-connected digital-based world.  Three observations about this trend are especially noteworthy for the student of scripture:

  1. Exposing things that are hidden.   The recent attack on SONY as well as the Wiki-leaks and other digital exposes is part of the ongoing fulfillment of Jesus warning, “Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known” (Matthew 10:26).  The attack on SONY exposed all types of hidden communications, opinions, bias, and prejudices to public view.   This type of exposure reduces public respect for the various institutions and leaders that have been held in high esteem.
  2. The weak say they are strong. The theme text, Joel 3:10, has most recently been applied to small cells of terrorist groups practicing guerilla-type warfare.  Today, however, cyber terrorists practice economic warfare.  Cyber terrorism that was confined to identity theft, stealing corporate secrets and other limited damage outlets now can deliver a strong blow to a major multi-national company.  What are the limits of what such an intrusion can accomplish?  As observed in Mr. Obama’s 2012 editorial, the ability to take down a nation’s electrical grid or paralyze its banking system could easily start a traditional war.
  3. Economic Armageddon.  The drying up of the river Euphrates (Revelation 16:12) is the result of the sixth plague-bearing angel’s action.  Since the days of ancient Babylon, the Euphrates has been of vital importance to those living along its course. With the construction of large hydropower stations, irrigation schemes, and pipelines capable of transporting water over large distances, many more people now depend on the river for basic amenities such as electricity and drinking water than in the past.  It is a fitting picture of the world’s economic systems, which are increasinglyelectronically based.  The power of hackers to penetrate these systems is such that complete economic collapse is no longer under the influence of the nation-states themselves, but is now under the influence of whatever hacker-types are able to accomplish.  To what extent the economic establishment can protect itself is unknown, given that consumers of economic systems prefer convenience over security.

A Safer World Fantasy

The era dominated by “super-powers” is over. Today’s world is much more unpredictable. The analogy of a few large battleships circling each other has given way to a crowded ocean with many ships being piloted by unskilled captains. The threat of collision is much greater today.

Today’s systems — social organizations, religions, economic and political structures — will soon be replaced for the benefit of all people, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting” (Daniel 5:27).

The final battle of Armageddon will dissolve the power of all such systems. Jesus’ presence will then lead man into his kingdom. “I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:7).

God shakes nations in preparation for His Kingdom. Under the divine
standard, everyone on earth will enjoy peace, equality and an opportunity for everlasting life. Let our spiritual awareness overrule any fear or concern we might have as we look at the world today. Let us remember the encouragement of the Psalms: “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations will worship before You. For the kingdom is the LORD’s and He rules over the nations” (Psalms 22:27, 28, NASB).

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