Cybersecurity Fundamentals – Change the Economics
Cyber-attacks are asymmetrical and reap large monetary and national security rewards, far greater than the resources they require.
Consider this statement from the 2014 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report: “2013 may be remembered as the ‘year of the retailer breach,’ but a comprehensive assessment suggests it was a year of transition from geopolitical attacks to large-scale attacks on payment card systems.”
Stealing cars, robbing banks, or stealing an individual’s identity, offer less financial return than a database or stream of millions of credit card numbers. The frequency and volume of attacks indicates that current cybersecurity methods to protect sensitive information may not be sufficient, and perhaps the rate of attack will not slow until the risk or cost to the attackers becomes too high compared to the value of a breach.
Raising the cost or reducing the value of an attack is not easy, particularly when many attacks originate from countries without extradition agreements. Limited law enforcement capabilities make many of methods to combat this controversial. The notion of a counterattack requires more precision than we usually have in identifying the attacker within the necessary timeframe. A counterattack risks a great deal of collateral damage and potential diplomatic fallout. This is a long-term problem that requires long-term, indirect actions for any economic change. In that context, here are some ideas that might have an impact:
- Participating in economic activity with the U.S. is a boon to most countries. As a result, cybercrime also impacts their economies. Before agreeing to trade agreements and economic treaties, the U.S. might require other countries to commit to cooperative law enforcement investigations and legislated programs for reducing cybercrime activities within their borders
- Assign each credit card issued a set of decoy numbers that are recorded at the same time the real number is used to make a purchase. Over time, databases and point of sale applications will become loaded with several multiples of decoy numbers, lessening the chance that a real number is used in a fraudulent transaction involving stolen numbers. This makes it easier for the retailer to identify fraudulent transactions, and reduces the value of the compromised data
The complexity of geopolitics, technology, economic interests, and law enforcement operations for combating cyber-attacks will continue to make reaching, litigating, and incarcerating cyber-criminals very challenging. Efforts to increase the risk or cost to attackers will take a long time to implement and have an effect, but this is clearly a long time problem.