In my conversations with contacts around the world, I keep hearing the same word come up to describe the threat America faces…
Most of the time, they're referring to ISIS, which has thankfully been forced on the defensive as of late, but the term could apply equally to Russia, to North Korea and, yes, to China – all of which have made bits and bytes their weapon of choice.
Forget bombs, bullets, and brigades.
In the words of National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, "we need to assume there's a cyber dimension in every area we deal with" when it comes to evaluating national security threats today.
This is so serious that more than 100 countries are building up military cyber commands, not all of which are understood by civilian leaders.
Fifteen percent of all military defense contractor mergers within the past few years have involved cyber companies intent on developing new cyber weapons, according to P.W. Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute.
What makes this so scary is the fact that the bad guys want to harness digital networks in a way that causes millions of people physical harm. Taking down an air defense net would allow a missile attack that previously wouldn't have been possible, for example. Cratering a cooling tower could enable a nuclear meltdown.
And so on.
Many investors don't think of it this way, but what I am describing is an entirely new form of international competition. And one we must win.
Stuxnet, a computer virus widely rumored to have been created by the United States and Israel in order to combat Iran's nuclear program, is a great example.
Made up of ones and zeros, it was the digital equivalent of a nuclear weapon because it was launched, targeted, and triggered autonomously.
To speak very bluntly, we're talking about a new arms race worth trillions over the next years.
A sentiment echoed by Britain's spy chief, Alexander Younger, who warned that the West is "in an arms race against terrorists, malicious actors in cyberspace, and criminals."
Counterterrorist officials are right to be spooked. One knowledgeable 12-year-old with a grudge can do serious damage, but a hostile enemy with the right backing could bring down our way of life – unless we proactively stop them.
World War III as Einstein Didn't Imagine It
Remarking on the devastation in the days following World War II, it was Albert Einstein who reportedly quipped, "I have no idea what weapons we'll be using in World War III, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."
Some 70 years on, Einstein is right.
About the Author
Keith Fitz-Gerald has been the Chief Investment Strategist for the Money Morning team since 2007. He's a seasoned market analyst with decades of experience, and a highly accurate track record. Keith regularly travels the world in search of investment opportunities others don't yet see or understand. In addition to heading The Money Map Report, Keith runs High Velocity Profits, which aims to get in, target gains, and get out clean. In his weekly Total Wealth, Keith has broken down his 30-plus years of success into three parts: Trends, Risk Assessment, and Tactics – meaning the exact techniques for making money. Sign up is free at totalwealthresearch.com.