Cyberattacks have become the latest weapon for countries waging economic warfare, says a researcher who is working to combat such attacks.
South Korea was the target of attacks by China that last year disabled the website of South Korean conglomerate Lotte Group and forced the closure of its operations in China. And an attack by North Korea temporarily shut down computer networks at two banks and three broadcasters in 2013, said Samantha Ravich, chairwoman of the Transformative Cyber Innovation Lab of The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“Cyber-enabled economic warfare is a hostile, strategic attack on the critical economic assets and systems to weaken the target state’s security and military capabilities,” Ravich said during the second and final day of the National Cyber Symposium at The Broadmoor International Center. “We have to move at the speed of light and can’t wait for all the answers in our drive to improve cyber resiliency.”
The U.S. and other nations that weren’t targeted by such attacks still can suffer collateral damage, Ravich said. A June 2016 malware attack by Russian operatives against Ukrainian targets, for example, also hit FedEx, Merck, Maersk and many businesses around the world, inflicting damage totaling $10 billion, she noted. All three attacks were designed to force political or military concessions, she said.
The foundation’s lab is designed to find and help spread technology to solve some of the biggest cybersecurity issues for defense and national security contractors and agencies. The lab is testing a distributed ledger system, better known as blockchain technology, to add security and transparency to the Department of Defense’s supply chain, Ravich said. The lab has tested the system by sending two lines of software code.
“We are trying to get the Department of Defense to use its buying power — its budget is bigger than most countries’ entire budget — to force more cybersecurity protections into the Internet of Things,” the growing number of devices linked to the internet, from fitness trackers and watches to doorbells and thermostats.
Ravich also is lead investigator in the foundation’s Cyber-Enabled Economic Warfare project and was a special adviser and deputy national security adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney.
The symposium was hosted by the Springs-based National Cybersecurity Center.
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