Lockheed Martin just confirmed that it was hacked on May 21, 2011. Its swift response stopped the breach before any critical data was stolen.

Still, it’s insane that hackers would target Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin is a defense contractor. One of its primary businesses is serving the US military. It undoubtedly has the incentive and capability to take cyber defense very seriously.

Moreover, Lockheed Martin actually has its own cyber-defense operation.

That’s right. It’s actually in the very business of defending against cyber-attacks. Launching a cyber attack against Lockheed Martin, therefore, is like trying to raid the headquarters of a private military company. It doesn’t make any sense – unless you come with an army yourself.

That’s exactly happened with Lockheed Martin when it was targeted with a “significant and tenacious” cyber attack.

Over the last few years, the crime of hacking has gone institutional.

In 2009, the US government successful shut down what was essentially a group of well-organized cyber mercenaries based in the capital of Ukraine. The company, which went by the name of Innovative Marketing Ukraine, “employed” hundreds of workers to churn out computer viruses.

Its building – three stories high – housed a receptionist and an HR department. It even sponsored catered holiday parties and paintball matches for its top employees, reported Reuters. In 2008, the company reportedly raked in revenues of $180 million.

To use the analogy to the physical world again, it was essentially several platoons of well-organized mercenary forces capable of carrying out a raid against a private military company.

Evidence also strongly suggests that foreign governments are sponsoring cyber attacks. For example, the cyber attack against Google in late 2009 was probably perpetrated under the direction of the Chinese government and involved Chinese academia. Many suspect that the attack on Lockheed Martin was perpetrated by a foreign government seeking access to sensitive US government data.

The answer to “how dare hackers target Lockheed Martin” is that these hackers were an army themselves, so that’s why they dared to take on another one. These clashes of cyber armies reflect the reality of modern warfare, which has increasingly shifted from the physical world to the cyber world.