Cyberwar and big data: gains in technology could alter balance of playing field

A US company, Recorded Future, claims it can predict 83 per cent of cyber exploits. The prospect of this kind of big data technology could begin to alter the balance of power between hackers and defenders.

Recorded Future says it takes exploit data and puts it into a mathematical model that can be used with machine learning algorithms to predict the type of upcoming attacks. “There is still room for a lot of improvement,” the US-based company said.

Given the ongoing crisis in cyber defense, you can assume there will be resources put into improvements, not only with Recorded Future and its technology – but all researchers in this areas. That trend begs the question of whether once these techniques are mastered, will the balance of power in the cyber domain be tilted back, ever so slightly, towards defenders?

As it stands, aggressors have the hands-down advantage in cyber aggression. Hackers enjoy anonymity and surprise. They try out new viruses which are usually only learned about after they are deployed – sometimes years afterward, which again means someone’s system has to be attacked.

But a future of significantly hardened cyber targets could change that. Being able to effectively secure targets would be a big breakthrough and could affect US-China relations in this dimension.

OPM hack: US sanctions option

While the US’s tussle with China over cybersecurity often gets noticed because of the industrial espionage concerns,  the White House executive order designed to address economic espionage allows the US…

to sanction malicious cyber actors whose actions threaten the national security, foreign policy, or economic health or financial stability of the United States.

That could include the Office of Personnel Management hack. Yet the kind of data the Chinese are accused of accessing is plain ol’ vanilla details on 21.5 million US employees. Not the business plans and intellectual property theft that is outside the “norms” of accepted behavior in state sponsored hacking. If there is any takeaway on the US side, it seems to be how flawed the OPM’s security was.

OPMHow was the US be so complacent for so long? At some level, those in charge (including the White House) must have believed they had the luxury of working within a kind of vacuum of threats. The elites in Washington and everyone else are seeing that rather than a vacuum the US is in a kind of pressure-cooker. Call it, the new normal.

Hillary Clinton makes a splash on Chinese hacking

US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s blunt words on China’s hacking, as reported by Reuters:

[Clinton] accused China on Saturday of stealing commercial secrets and “huge amounts of government information,” and of trying to “hack into everything that doesn’t move in America.”

They’re also trying to hack into everything that doesn’t move in America. Stealing commercial secrets … from defense contractors, stealing huge amounts of government information, all looking for an advantage.

What’s remarkable is how forthright her words were on this one topic. Compared to her vacillating views on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, she came down hard and fast on China’s hacking. Of course, it’s a no-brainer in a way, as Hillary won’t face Chinese national voters in the election. She will face voters who have a strong case of ambivalence about the worth of free trade deals.

Clinton’s views on China’s no doubt were informed by her time as Secretary of State. Industrial espionage via the internet is also an issue close to the heart of corporate America. Nonetheless, her comments were a rare bit of straight talk by the famously hard-to-pin down politician.