Participants hold their laptops in front of an illuminated wall at the annual Chaos Computer Club (CCC) computer hackers' congress, called 29C3, on Dec. 28, 2012 in Hamburg, Germany. (Patrick Lux/Getty Images)
The reach and potential of cybercrime grows with every new device that’s connected to the internet, and with every industry that moves to an online platform.
Cybercrime is no longer just about corporations losing intellectual property. Today, it’s hospitals having their equipment locked by hackers until a ransom is paid; it’s hackers being able to seize control of cars while we drive them; and it’s our personal information being sold online to the highest bidder.
Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said at a the Cambridge Cyber Summit on Oct. 4 that the cost of global cybercrime is expected to grow from $3 trillion in 2015 to $6 trillion in 2021.
Rosenstein also noted that as he spoke, the United States was dealing with “one of the largest breaches ever of a private company holding sensitive financial data” after 145 million people were affected by the breach of credit-reporting agency Equifax.
When Trump declared October as National Security Awareness month on Sept. 30, he noted that “All Americans are affected by threats to our Nation’s cybersecurity,” and called on “people, companies, and institutions of the United States to recognize the importance of cybersecurity.”
According to Daniel Wagner, the threat of cybersecurity has gone beyond the realm of cyber. He registered a new term to describe it, which he also used as the title of his new book, “Virtual Terror.”
Wagner noted that when terrorism enters the realm of cyber, “all of those traditional measures are surpassed. It’s not just about political objectives and causing physical damage to promote your means—it goes into another realm that encompasses literally everything.”
Virtual terror is a much broader definition, he said. It encompasses anything related to digital snooping, stealing, creating war, causing damage or harm to individuals, businesses, governments, or groups.
“When you have 145 million people who have essentially had their identities breached, that impacts so many aspects of their lives,” Wagner said, referring to the Equifax breach.
He asked who would call that breach terrorism, according to that term’s usual definition. But then he said, “by virtual terrorism’s definition, that’s right in the bullseye.”
“Cyber only seems to encompass theft and security, what virtual terror does is encompass fear and damage,” he said. “The one thing traditional terror has gone on is its ability to scare people, to have an impact on their psyche.”
Wagner noted that when it comes to technological developments, the world is teetering between the glossy, high-tech future, and the nightmarish digital dystopia.
The problem is that we’re pushing more and more of our lives into the digital space, and allowing technology to play a greater role in managing our lives and societies, but the security and protections of individuals are not keeping pace with developments.
“It seems to me like we’re at a pivot point. It’s very bad, but not so bad that we can’t turn the tide,” he s