The Calm Before the Storm

Cyberwar is already happening — and it’s about to get much, much worse. A veteran intelligence official explains how America can prepare itself.

JOEL BRENNER

Revelations of wholesale electronic fraud and massive data heists have become weekly, even daily affairs. A multinational electronics corporation loses personal information on more than 100 million customers. Cyberthieves break into an international bank, counterfeit credit balances, and loot ATMs in four countries, grabbing $9 million in just a few hours. International gangs spread malicious code that conscripts unwitting computers into zombie armies of hundreds of thousands of similarly enslaved machines. Criminals then rent these armies, called "botnets," as easily as you can buy a time-sharing arrangement in a beach condo. No wonder the vast majority of Internet traffic is spam.

Yet the loss of personal information and related criminal fraud, intolerable as they are, are the least threatening face of electronic insecurity. The U.S. military’s secret network is penetrated. Americans’ corporate pockets are being picked clean of the intellectual property that makes the United States tick. And the electricity grid that keeps the lights on and makes everything move is dangerously insecure.

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