Almost eighty years ago, a secret team of hackers — hidden in isolated buildings far from wandering eyes — broke the most sensitive communications of a foreign power. Those hackers were agents of the British and American governments (with significant help from others, including exiled Poles), and the foreign power was Germany.
The result was Ultra, the most advanced intelligence collected on German military plans and operations, which Churchill and Eisenhower reportedly credited for the Allied victory.
We’re now dealing with different types of Hacker Wars.
WannaCry. Bitcoin. Presidential election.
In other words, business, currency, and politics. All hacked recently.
If reporting is accurate, North Korea — a country so isolated from the world that it is called the Hermit Kingdom — has enough offensive hacker capabilities to cripple companies and shut down entire industries.
With the bitcoin hack, the government of North Korea, and its army of 7000 hackers, seems to be expanding into financial cyber attacks.
Meanwhile, the Russian government and its hacker affiliates — with benign-sounding names like Fancy Bear — are focusing on voting infrastructures, military and aerospace systems, and general geopolitical chaos.
The United States has vast capabilities, as does China, Iran, and many other countries. For good measure, non-state actors are becoming significant contributors to the Hacker Wars.
The genie is out of the bottle, and these wars will intensify over time. Just wait until an entire city’s digital infrastructure goes down after an attack. Or power grids. Or a network of autonomous vehicles. Or air traffic controls. Or global shipping. Or energy exploration. Or missile defense.
Legacy industries need to invest in security, and new industries need to build security layers into products and business models. But the truth remains: everyone will be affected, and no one is entirely safe.