High value intelligence targets are facing a myriad of cyber threats – at an unprecedented scale. What’s more, according to Wired, it’s difficult to tell exactly where those threats are coming from and what they will target. The threat is, whatever way it’s looked at, multi-faceted and increasing in terms of threat. With that in mind, the US – and many other western governments – are making rapid changes to scale up their cybersecurity operations.

The physical threat

The threats posed by cyberattacks are not limited to just digital risks. The way that high-value intelligence targets are being threatened is changing every month. In April 2021, the FBI arrested a man who specifically plotted to take out ‘70%’ of the internet, according to the BBC, through targeting Amazon data centers. Whether he was working alone or as part of a wider plot is not known. According to security experts, this change in risk has necessitated an all-in-one approach to security. Digital and physical security must interface into a unified front, typically through sensitive compartmentalised information facilities – or SCIF – which encompass absolute physical and digital security.

Updating protections

While physical protection remains intact, it is a fact that several key agencies have been penetrated by cyber attacks over the past decade. According to CNN, nine governmental organizations have been breached by cyber attacks. Much of this has been due to outdated software protections and exploits relating to older software systems. While data loss has been the only major damage accrued as a result of these attacks, it does highlight a worrying trend.

Classification versus collaboration

These trends are hardly unseen by the government. The NSAs yearly roundup of key threats and changes to the cybersecurity community highlighted as much. In their report the NSA highlighted a key challenge that they face in protecting the country – the need for collaboration, and the challenges posed by classification. As a whole, however, the message is clear. Collaboration can be effective in protecting wider spread cyber networks, and in return also protect the high security agencies. In general, improving society’s cybersecurity credentials will reduce the number of weak spots in the wider system and create greater protections.

This is the only way to defend against a threat that isn’t entirely clear in its shape or size. Building strength in every possible part of the network will reduce the chance of successful attacks, and in turn reduce the ability of malicious actors to gain a foothold in high value targets.