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.