The conflicts of the future are likely to involve a virtual battleground, upon which crypto-boffins will engage in a battle for control of hardware and software system. The Stuxnet and Flame viruses – computer programs designed to infiltrate and render nuclear systems unusable or to harvest data and which many analysts agree could only have been developed and deployed with the funding and support of a State rather than a purely criminal enterprise are pointing the way to the intelligence gathering and wars of tommorrow.
In a world in which everything is controlled by computers, those who take control of computers take control of us all. The limited impact of the failure of IT systems at RBS was a huge inconvenience for RBS customers and those connected with them who did not receive payments or could not send payments. Imagine an attack that focused purely upon UK financial computer systems. Sent over the Internet or from a few agents deploying the right computer code in the right place at the right time. Imagine the effects of crippling our financial system, or even just a few key parts of it. The fallout could likely be as economically damaging as bombing major physical infrastructure.
The decision to reduce the number of physical personnel in our standing army is the right one overall, but it must be balanced with a drive to recruit people with an aptitude for IT systems who can shore up our technological defences against attacks written in software and not announced by the sending of soldiers and military hardware across national borders.