Lockheed Martin hacked, cyber crime steps up to major leagues

COLUMN: Lockheed Martin’s cyber attack is a wakeup call for society to take cyber security more seriously.

on May 29 2011 7:53 PM

Lockheed Martin just recently admitted that it was hacked on May 21, 2011.  It managed to stop the tenacious attack before any critical data was stolen.

Back in October 2008, Lockheed Martin launched its cyber-defense operations.  It bragged that it wanted a piece of the red-hot cyber security industry.

It's shocking, therefore, that hackers are now bold enough to target a company that specializes in defending against them.

The cyber security industry is worth $40 billion in 2010, according to Federated Networks, a player in that industry. After several incidents in the last two years, however, it'll probably get even bigger.

In late 2009, Google and other high profile tech companies like Adobe Systems were hacked from China.  The purpose of the attack was reportedly to steal intellectual information and access certain Gmail accounts.

In late 2010, a loose-organized internet vigilante group called Anonymous organized an attack on Visa and MasterCard for their anti-Wikileaks stance.  The attacks brought down the two companies' websites.

In April 2011, Sony's PlayStation Network was hacked, forced to shut down for weeks, and user credit card numbers were likely stolen.  Sony was hacked by either internet vigilantes affiliated with Anonymous or thieves looking to steal credit card numbers.

These instances of hacking teach us two things: hacking can do serious damage to society and it's surprisingly easy to perpetrate.

Hacking Google, for example, means gaining access to the most private information of individuals.  Hacking tech companies in general means gaining key intellectual information, which is their lifeblood.

Hacking defense contractors like Lockheed Martin is a matter of national military security.

The hacking of MasterCard and Visa demonstrates the utter unpreparedness of major corporations.  It shows that a group of rule-breaking enthusiasts can trump Fortune 500 companies.  In the physical/real world, something like that would be unimaginable.

Corporations, governments, universities, and consumers in general aren't prepared for cyber attacks.

Many experts had predicted the rising importance of cyber security ever since it became clear that cyberspace would be an integral part of modern society.

Hackers, however, haven't really done too much damage until the last two years because criminals and other rule-breakers (e.g. unscrupulous government agencies) didn't seriously incorporate cyber attacks into their repertoire.

Now, they have and are finally giving hacking the organizational backing it needs to do some serious damage.  In other words, hacking has changed from being a crime perpetrated by loose-organized operators for petty gains to an operation backed by major crime syndicates and other powerful organizations for more nefarious and impactful purposes.

Society at large, therefore, needs to beef up its cyber security.  It needs to resemble the robustness of security in the physical world.

The US, for example, has a network of police force at every single municipality and state to deal with local criminal threats.  On the national level, it has the FBI and a standing army.

As cyber crimes have moved to the major leagues, cyber security needs to do the same.

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