The Changing New Zealand National Security Environment: New Threats, New Structures, and New Research

Author: Hoverd, W.J.
Published in National Security Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, October 2019

attacks have been attributed to Russia and North Korea and represent the two most costly cy­ber-attacks that the world has currently experienced.12 The WannaCry attack (May 2017, US$4-US$8 billion) was a ransomware crypto worm that spread globally, effectively locking down industry computers such as the UK’s National Health System and sub­sequently Boeing in 2018.13 The sheer indiscriminate scale and damage of this attack attributed to a nation state (North Korea), demonstrated the global threat that such malware could potentially cause, specifically, if the attack was targeted at a state’s critical infrastructure. In addition, the NotPetya attack (June 2017, US$10 billion) also orig­inally appeared to be a ransomware attack, but in actual fact, it was a ‘wiper’ which permanently wiped the content on computer hard drives.14 NotPetya was primarily de­ployed at a series of direct targets in the Ukraine removing part of the government and civil society’s software infrastructure. The collateral damage spread by the cryptoworm spread across the globe, i.e., Danish international shipping giant Maersk was cruelly impacted by the worm.15 NotPetya was subsequently attributed by the CIA to Russian hybrid warfare action.16

These cyber-attacks are globally ruinous and effectively deniable for those actors who deploy them. While these two attacks did not take lives specifically, both disrupted the software infrastructures of corporations and governments. The implication here being that if the actors who deployed these attacks changed targets to shutting down critical infrastructures such as transport grids, power stations, hospitals etc then catastrophic widespread, direct and collateral damage could be caused. The potential for indiscrim­inate damage with such attacks is unimaginable. As a response to NotPetya, Five Eyes cyber-condemnation of Russia occurred on 18 April 2018.17 Moreover in 2018, the Gov­ernment Communication Service Bureau (GCSB),18 Labour Coalition Government19 and NZDF20 have all at various times referred to Russia and/or North Korea as potential sources of cyber threat. Given the widespread global damage caused by WannaCry and NotPetya and the fact that these cyber capabilities/weapons have recently been deployed and could be again, New Zealand is wise to be vigilant and build cybersecurity infra­structures because the very nature of the Internet Of Things potentially brings these threats into the homes and pockets of all of our citizens.

There is a third significant change in the global security environment which needs atten­tion as well, but it is more diffuse because it creates insecurity rather than threat or risk per se. There has been a rise of domestic polarised politics and economic protectionism from nation states such as the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) which are both a product of and perpetuate insecurity. The rise of economic protection, the polarisation of politics and concerns about free speech have repercussions for the study of security. The rise of economic protectionism has impacted New Zealand in terms of the collapse of the Trans Pacific Partnership in 2017 after the US withdrawal.21 While this deal has been renegotiated and reconfigured as an eleven-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, the rise of US (steel tariffs and their ongoing trade war with China) and