Most people don't realize how close we are to a cyberwar that could put them out of business, perhaps permanently. Consider the technical facts:

  • Hackers have repeatedly proven that they can break into virtually any corporate and government system.
  • Foreign governments have successfully hacked into U.S. based corporate and government systems.
  • Russian submarines have been tracked near the physical cables that carry most of the world's data.
  • The connectivity of the Internet of Things means that no system anywhere can possible be secure.

Now consider the political facts:

  • Some hotheaded (i.e. boneheaded) U.S. politicians have demanded that the U.S. take actions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East that could start a war with Russia, a country where hacking has been raised to a fine art.
  • The U.S. is in an economic war with China, where emphasis on engineering in higher education has result in China having exponentially more programmers than the U.S. (We have a lot more MBAs, though. Doh!)
  • The U.S. is virtually at war with North Korea (which has hacked U.S. corporate accounts) and physically at war with various radical Muslim groups, many of whom are technologically sophisticated. Not to mention assorted homegrown anarchists.

Add up all of the above and it's clear that it's not a matter of "if" a cyberwar will take place, but a matter of "when."

Take heart, though. Contrary to popular belief, the coming cyberwar won't be some sort of Y2K-like, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it catastrophe. Instead, it's more likely to take the form of a "cyberstrike" on some part of our infrastructure.

Likely targets will include banks, stock markets, power companies, telecoms, cable providers and cloud computing providers. However, it's unlikely, however, that more than one of element of our infrastructure will be hit simultaneously, simply because each attack would necessarily be a one-time strike, dependent upon a one-time hack.

Put another way, the coming cyberwar won't be a doomsday scenario as much as a very expensive set of inconveniences. Companies that prepare themselves will be able to adapt recover quickly, thereby limiting the financial damage. Those caught unprepared... not so much.

Here's how to ensure you're still in business after everything is back up and running:

1. Don't assume the government can defend you.

The U.S. government can't defend against cyberwar because it's invested in keeping the Internet fragile. The government's idea of cybersecurity is putting backdoors into every secure system so that they can spy on what everyone is doing. And if there's a backdoor, other governments can and will exploit it.

2. Make copies of your data on removable storage.

It's not going to be good enough to simply have an online backup of your company's essential data because if the backup provider is hit, those copies might not exist any longer. Instead, make certain that you've got a copy of your essential data on media that can't get caught in the crossfire.

3. Keep paper copies of your most important documents.

Any document that might screw up your company if you couldn't find a copy of it should be stored in hardcopy. Examples would be papers of incorporate, contracts with customers, tax records, lists of business contacts and so forth. Don't count on cloud storage to keep your key documents safe.

4. Prepare for at least a week of inconvenience.

Forget all the paranoid survivalist crap. The cyberwar will be much like the extended power outages that have hit the East Coast lately. Buy a generator and enough fuel to keep it running at least part of the day for seven or more days. FEMA recommends stockpiling enough food and water for two weeks.

5. Maintain multiple ways to get online.

While there are definite vulnerabilities to the Internet, its designed to adapt around outages so there's a good chance some of it will remain up and running. That won't help you, though, if your Internet provider is down. Ideally, have both cable and DSL access as well as the ability to connect to the Internet using your smartphone.

6. Stay optimistic, no matter what.

Despite all of the above, the right attitude is "prepare for the worst but hope for the best." Follow the above advice and when the proverbial hits the fan, you'll be ready. Meanwhile, it's a waste of time worrying about things that you can't control. So take a deep breath and focus on building your business.