Growing Cyber Threats Lead Businesses Like Google to Ready for Cyber Warfare

Tech companies like Google and Facebook are tapping national intelligence services and government agencies for cyber talent.
By: | February 8, 2019

At the end of January, Airbus reported that it was the victim of a data breach caused by hackers, joining an ever-growing list of corporations that have fallen victim to sophisticated cyber aggression in recent years.

Late in 2018, for instance, the Marriott hotel group disclosed an attack that exposed the data belonging to as many as 500 million guests. Smaller firms and government entities do not seem to be any safer, with reports of new attacks, successful or not, popping up in the media every day.

Crooks, Spies or Both?

The higher frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks have become a trend that organizations of any size cannot afford to ignore. And long gone are the times when the typical hacker was a bored teen working from their parents’ couch.

Nowadays companies are more likely to face well-organized multinational criminal gangs of hackers or state-sponsored cyber terrorist groups that could either look for financial rewards or wreak havoc on a country’s infrastructure, and sometimes both.

Ransomware, for instance, is a one of the tools of choice for crooks to siphon money from marks. But investigators found out that the big WannaCry ransomware attack of 2017 was actually perpetrated by North Korean spooks.

An Arms Race for Cyber Talent

In an environment where risk matrixes start to read like the screenplay of a “Mr. Robot” episode featuring Jack Reacher, the most exposed companies are strengthening cyber security teams with the kind of experts who were once the exclusivity of intelligence agencies.

In fact, tech companies like Google and Facebook are tapping national intelligence services and government agencies for talent. Some people even believe that, with massive investments in cyber security, a global reach and a unique wealth of data, the likes of Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook could even be better positioned than governments to fend off virtual terrorist acts. There have already been instances where tech giants have helped U.S. agencies in this quest.

As the suspicion that the Chinese government has enrolled China’s own tech champions in their geopolitical designs, the cyber warfare stakes are getting ever higher in the corporate world.

Losses in the Billions

The problem when crime mixes with spying and geopolitics is that the line between the good and bad guys get blurrier, especially for companies with billions of investments in several parties involved in the hostilities: China and Russia, two large emerging markets, are among the U.S. main virtual foes.

In any case, multinational organizations surely have a common interest when it comes to ensuring they can do business in a safe cyber realm.

A study by Aon, Lloyd’s and a Singaporean university simulated a global cyber attack against 600,000 organizations that would cost companies up to a whopping $193bn, with $27bn covered by the global insurance sector.

American companies alone would face losses of $89bn. Maybe it is time to start looking at those intelligence services profiles on LinkedIn. &

Rodrigo Amaral is a freelance writer specializing in Latin American and European risk management and insurance markets. He can be reached at [email protected]

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