Anything that threatens the well-being of a country’s people or the stability of a nation’s economy or its institutions is considered a national security threat. Security threats can be broken down into different types.
Some security threats arise from foreign governments that have hostile intentions towards that nation. These threats include direct acts or threats of aggression and war. However, sometimes they can also be subtler and more difficult to detect, such as espionage, election interference, etc.
Some countries also face threats from radical groups that don’t represent a foreign government per se but might be tolerated or sponsored by foreign powers. Terrorist groups might seek to cause disruption and chaos through physical violence or, in certain cases, cybercrime.
An enemy state does not have to directly assert aggressive action towards a nation for it to be registered as a potential threat to security. The basic idea of proliferation, especially in relation to advanced weaponry, must also be considered. If an enemy state is known to be stockpiling biological or chemical weapons, increasing their nuclear capabilities or improving their capacity for destruction, proliferation qualifies as a national security threat, even though they are not directly using those weapons in an attack.
Online criminals pose a major threat to national security, especially those that are not associated with terrorist groups and hostile governments. Cybercriminals might hack government websites, power infrastructures or economic institutions as a way of extorting or stealing money. They might also commit these crimes to advance a political agenda.
Not all national security threats are anthropogenic. For a recent example, take the case of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pandemics can spread on a global scale, with different countries facing them in different manners, often with varying degrees of success. This still-ongoing global health crisis shows how widespread disease can endanger not just the physical wellness of citizens but socioeconomic structures as well along with it. International responses to the current pandemic have shown how governments can try to protect against such crises.
Some diseases come naturally and in the absence of any act of hostility or malignancy. However, history also provides several examples of biological weapons being used to cause widespread panic and terror within a nation. Biological warfare can pose a major threat to national security. However, governments can put safeguards in place to reduce this risk as much as possible.
Cyberterrorism is another potential national security threat. The Centre for Strategic and International Studies states that there have been over a dozen incidents of cyberterrorism in 2020 alone. A group of human rights activists in India were targeted by terrorists, infecting their computers with malware. North Korean hackers reportedly compromised two prominent European defence firms, sending people fake job offers as a means to hack into their systems and get classified information.