The trillion-dollar heist
In the meantime, our greatest cyber-security challenge may be something far more prosaic than the digitally induced mayhem envisioned by Clarke or faced down by Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard: theft.

In July, international authorities arrested a 23-year-old Slovenian, known as Iserdo, who allegedly masterminded the "Mariposa botnet," infecting as many as 12 million computers worldwide — including PCs at half of the Fortune 1000 companies and at least 40 major banks.

The botnet, which stole credit-card information and online banking credentials, is but the latest symbol of what has become a highly sophisticated cyber-crime sector.

Syndicates are renting out botnets to online thieves, hackers are selling Social Security numbers for a few bucks a pop, and cyber-sleuths are conducting high-level corporate espionage on a daily basis.

The best estimates have cyber criminals stealing some $1 trillion in intellectual property from businesses worldwide in 2008. And the true number is probably far higher.

Clarke himself writes of an unprecedented theft of American know-how in pharmacology, nanotechnology, and weapons design — all snatched up by the People's Liberation Army and delivered straight to China, Inc.

And it is this simple description of wholesale theft — rather than his dark vision of colliding trains and toxic gases on the loose — that may be the most compelling part of Clarke's book.

This is the cyber war of the moment — not blunt murder, but something equally worrisome: death by a thousand cuts.

David Scharfenberg can be reached atdscharfenberg@phx.com.

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  | 
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY DAVID SCHARFENBERG
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   LIBERAL WARRIOR  |  April 10, 2013
    When it comes to his signature issues — climate change, campaign finance reform, tax fairness — Whitehouse makes little secret of his approach: marshal the facts, hammer the Republicans, and embarrass them into action.
  •   AT BROWN, A WIN FOR CLIMATE CHANGE ACTIVISTS  |  April 11, 2013
    A key Brown University oversight committee has voted to recommend the school divest from coal, delivering a significant victory to student climate change activists.
  •   HACKING POLITICS: A GUIDE  |  April 03, 2013
    Last year, the Internet briefly upended everything we know about American politics.
  •   BREAK ON THROUGH  |  March 28, 2013
    When I spoke with Treasurer Gina Raimondo this week, I opened with the obligatory question about whether she'll run for governor. "I'm seriously considering it," she said. "But I think as you know — we've talked about it before — I have little kids: a six-year-old, an eight-year-old. I'm a mother. It's a big deal."
  •   THE LIBERAL CASE FOR GUNS  |  March 27, 2013
    The school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut spurred hope not just for sensible gun regulation, but for a more nuanced discussion of America's gun culture. Neither wish has been realized.

 See all articles by: DAVID SCHARFENBERG