The Unhackable Internet Analyzes Three Decades of Mistakes and the Solutions Available to Build Internet Security

The Story

If you knew a coming attack would disarm national security, wipe out the electric grid, destroy banking networks, and cause your money to disappear, wouldn't you want the government to prevent it?

In his essential new book_THE UNHACKABLE INTERNET: How Rebuilding Cyberspace Can Create Real Security and Prevent Financial Collapse (Prometheus Book; February 2023), financial services and technology expert Thomas P. Vartanian reveals how vulnerable our online world is to staggering damage from attacks by enemies ranging from geopolitical rivals to criminal cartels.

Vartanian describes the devastating hacks that are coming-it is a matter of when, not if unless the US and other democratic nations take some admittedly difficult steps to remake global internet security.

Vartanian, the Executive Director of Financial Technology & Cybersecurity Center, exposes the weaknesses of the online networks that we rely on today, dissecting recent cybersecurity breaches increasingly choreographed by countries like Russia, North Korea, Iran, and China. He lays bare the inadequacies of our current computing systems and the dysfunction of the bureaucracies that oversee them.


Recent attacks have ranged from Solar Winds, which gave hackers believed to be linked to Russian intelligence unprecedented access to federal agencies and private corporations, to the breach of credit reporting data at Equifax, which compromised information on nearly half of all Americans. They all underscore the critical and immediate need for better security of the country's data and money.

In THE UNHACKABLE INTERNET, Vartanian offers solutions to the problems we face, including supplementing the Internet with secure private networks dedicated to critical infrastructures such as the financial sector. He lays out a system that relies on heightened authentication, governance, enforcement, and application "kill switches".

If we don't change course, we will perhaps in the not-too-distant future  suffer a cyber attack that Vartanian calls "a digital Pearl Harbor". This incisive and alarming book describes how we got to this point, but more importantly, how we can, and must, protect ourselves from this virtual firestorm.


Questions and Answers

It's already happened. Ask the people of Estonia, Ukraine, Brazil and other countries about the dislocations and anxiety they endured when banking services disappeared throughout their countries.

These threats are real and staring us in the face today. Every component of a total cyber collapse of the U.S. financial infrastructure has played out in separate incidents around the country. There is no doubt that hostile nation-states possess the capacity to combine those components to disrupt or destroy the operations of U.S. financial services companies, government agencies, securities exchanges, and payments systems.

The damage from such an attack would be enormous. Consider the financial loss and human anxiety caused by the brief shutdown of Colonial Pipeline in May 2021. That same year, $14 billion of cryptocurrencies was stolen from supposedly "immutable" blockchain networks. That is likely more than the amount stolen from all banks from the beginning of time.

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Editorial Reviews by the Experts

Randal K. Quarles,

Chairman of The Cynosure Group and formerly Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve System and Under Secretary of the U.S. Treasury

"The greatest threat to today's global financial system is not financial risk or geopolitical uncertainty, but the danger of cyber attack through a poorly defended Internet. In The Unhackable Internet, Tom Vartanian describes in detail how we got to this point and suggests practicable steps that could make us safer. Most importantly, he makes clear that our openness to such an attack is a choice, and one we can change. Governments and markets should listen."

Brian P. Brooks,

CEO, Bitfury, formerly Acting Comptroller of the Currency

"The Unhackable Internet is a painstaking dissection of the threats of a virtual financial life. Its detailed history of cybersecurity vulnerabilities and official responses over the last 25 years is unparalleled. Vartanian's creative presentation of the path that can lead to a more secure Internet and avert future financial calamities is grounded in his five decades of practical, real-world experience and is sure to spark a discussion of new ways to recreate the Internet."

Sylvia Elaluf-Calderwood,

PhD, Professor of Information Systems and Business Analytics, Florida International University College of Business

"For anyone interested in the future of the internet, this book is a tour de force. 'Security' is the word that comes to mind for anyone developing a business over the internet. The Unhackable Internet provides an experienced and creative approach to dealing with the risks and threats to financial infrastructures exposed by internet growth. Vartanian clearly presents the past and present of online banking, engaging in a very much needed debate on the possible paths for the future of internet security. The Unhackable Internet leaves readers not only informed, but willing to move ahead with viable alternatives to keeping the internet in the boundaries of law and order without killing its creativity drive."

James Dever,

Co-Founder and Principal at Lockhaven Solutions LLC and former U.S. Air Force Professor of Cyber Warfare and U.S. Army Cyber Warfare Judge Advocate

"The Unhackable Internet brings order to the digital wild west. Data is the world's most valuable economic asset and yet we live in the age of eternal breach. Hindsight has proved the folly of Mark Zuckerberg's mantra "move fast and break things." We ignore the lessons of history at our peril; a less hackable Internet is the imperative of our time. Vartanian's compelling vision - achievable if we pull together - puts the adults back in charge of the Internet."

Roslyn Layton,

Ph.D., Aalborg University, Department of Electronic Systems, National Security Institute, George Mason University

"Vartanian's tour de force analyzes a continuum of solutions to make the Internet safer and more unhackable. It lays out a sober assessment of the financial Armageddon, however unthinkable, that could be avoided but for the demoralizing and dispiriting failure of leadership which has followed a predictable cycle of attack, rinse, and repeat. The Unhackable Internet offers comprehensive and insightful cybersecurity solutions that just may change the Internet forever. It should be required reading for every executive, and policymaker."