How to Survive a Cyberattack | Bruce Schneier on Cyberwar in the 21st Century

Cyberattacks constitute one of the most urgent threats facing collective humanity according to Bruce Schneier. History has proven him right. In the summer of 2017, a weapon of cyberwar was dropped onto a world without borders, where the heavy artillery and nuclear warheads that defined the battlelines of the 20th century have been rendered useless. The attack, known as NotPetya, is estimated to have cost its victims ten billion dollars in damages. This is a fraction of the six-hundred billion dollars that the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates to be the annual cost of cybercrime, constituting nearly 1% of global GDP. Cyberattacks cost the world a fortune, but these costs are remain manageable. Still, they they pass largely unnoticed. The public, lacking context, remains blind to the gathering threat, unable to appreciate the gravity of a cyber 9/11.

Until now, cybercrime and cyber terrorism on the Internet has been measured in terms of dollars and cents. Soon, we will be measuring the cost of these cyberattacks in terms of flesh and blood. The 20th century has seen its share of industrial innovation and forward progress, but for the most part, these changes have been discrete. Things have gotten bigger, faster, and cheaper. Still, no one ever expected a train to become a toaster or a pacemaker to magically transform itself into an aisle of books.

The composition of an object – its component parts – did not exist independently of its use case. A key used to open a locker couldn’t be re-purposed to start a car, nor could a refrigerator open the door to a power plant or to the halls of congress. In today’s world, where everything is a computer, everything is vulnerable. When those things are connected to the Internet, everyone is exposed. Cyberattacks are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean that we are defenseless.