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AFP 2016 Opens with a Look at Technological Threats

  • By Andrew Deichler
  • Published: 10/24/2016

ORLANDO, Fla. -- An expert panel debated what some of the key issues going on around the globe could mean for corporate treasury and finance professionals, Sunday evening at the 2016 AFP Annual Conference. A key theme that came up throughout the discussion was the threat posed by the evolution of technology.

Moderator David Gregory, author and former host of Meet the Press, brought up the massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that took down sites like Twitter and Netflix by hijacking household appliances. The attacks were launched on Dyn, a domain name system (DNS) service provider. Gregory asked the panel how vulnerable the U.S. really is, and whether it should be going on the offensive against attackers.

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, noted that this latest DDoS attack was six times larger than any other one that has been seen before. “It was implemented not through your laptop or your desktop, but through the Internet of Things, which is your baby monitor or your refrigerator. If something is connected to the internet, it can be used to disrupt other aspects of the internet,” he said.

As for whether the U.S. should go on the offensive in regards to these attacks, Dempsey believes that the military has to determine when something becomes so dangerous that it requires the U.S. to react. “What rises to the level of a hostile act by a foreign government or someone operating inside the border of a foreign government that it will cause us to make a decision?” he asked. “But the American people, through legislature, have had painfully few discussions about cybersecurity. It’s going to have to happen.”

Dempsey added that there are five domains of military activity—activity on the ground, at sea, in the air, in space and in cyber. “In the first four we have no peer competitors. We dominate those domains. In the fifth, cyber, we have peer competitors. So you tell me whether I should be worried about it,” he said.

Threat of innovation

In addition to cyberattacks, innovative new technologies can also have a negative impact on the economy at large. Senior Economist for International Affairs, White House Council of Economic Advisors, Nouriel Roubini noted that while low and medium-level skill jobs are obviously threatened by globalization, but there is a bigger issues at play. “Even if you could stop trade, the greatest disruption is going to come from technology,” he said. “Obviously technological innovation is good for consumers, but it’s going to affect jobs of millions of people.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Doris Kearns Goodwin, asked Roubini for his response to the claims that NAFTA has been severely detrimental to American jobs. He responded that, again, technology is the bigger concern. “I don’t think our economic problems have anything to do with NAFTA,” he said. “Longer term, technology is displacing more jobs.”

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