During his traditional annual press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Washington is endangering world peace due to its withdrawal from the bilateral agreement for the control of short and medium-range nuclear weapons; which raises the possibility of a nuclear war. These statements contrast with those academics and students of international relations who maintain that, since the end of the Cold War, the possibility of a war between great powers seems to be diminishing due to the doctrine of dissuasion, economic integration and the processes of democratization around the world.
However, the scope or characteristics of a war between powers today is largely unknown and could not necessarily be conventional wars. The traditional or conventional war aims to take control of physical assets of the enemy. But in the Information Age, data and computer systems can have greater value than physical assets. A study by the computer security company McAfee, cited in this article , points out that 36% of business leaders, scientists and politicians surveyed in 27 European countries consider defense against cyber attacks on critical infrastructure (such as public services, banks, insurance, transport) is as important as missile defense.
Because it is not yet possible to make precise models of the consequences of a purely cybernetic war, the cost-benefit analysis produces scenarios of great uncertainty. Thus, cyber espionage becomes a useful tool to reduce this uncertainty, to know the vulnerabilities of its enemy and to have greater clarity about the scope and results of a computer war.
There are known cases of “hackers” that take advantage of the computer vulnerabilities of private entities to extort or monetize the information of victims or users of these private organizations. However, cyberespionage can provide political benefits, not just economic ones.
Organizations can take at least 205 days ( see article ) to realize they were hacked. In the case of the JW Marriott hotel chain, it was four years. It stole personal information, including card numbers and passports, from more than 500 million guests, through hacking the system to generate reservations for its Starwood subsidiary. However, the computer intelligence company Recorded Future reported that they found no evidence to suggest that the stolen information was sold.
The hotels of the JW Marriott chain are known to host diplomats, heads of state and government, high profile executives from around the world, and even spies. That is, with the stolen information can generate travel patterns of key individuals of various governments, in addition to their personal data. The fact that in four years no economic benefits have been sought through the sale of the information suggests that the objective was purely political.
According to a Reuters article , the way in which the hacking was carried out is very similar to those that have been attributed to the Chinese government in the past. This reinforces the theory that information theft was part of a government espionage strategy and had no economic purpose. In addition, it would confirm that today the main threat to cybersecurity of both public and private entities are foreign governments and not private individuals.
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