Cybercrime and efforts to thwart computer attacks have finally crossed the $1 trillion a year line and Chinese sources are to blame for 89 percent of the high-tech assaults, according to a leading computer security executive and the National Security Administration.
The wave of attacks has surged in the past three years to such a level, however, that efforts to defend and fight back haven't kept up, prompting officials to call for international treaties to cover cyberspace, sanctions on countries that attack U.S. databases and even computer revenge.
According to David DeWalt, chairman of the computer security firm FireEye, an average U.S. business is hit with an attack 100 times a day; 9,000 malicious websites are created worldwide every day; and 95 percent of U.S. companies have their computers compromised every day. He added that the attacks are now arriving via applications and "executables," not simply emails. though a new FireEye report warns email users to be wary of mail that include popular words like "UPS," "FedEx," and "Amazon."
In comments endorsed by Deputy NSA Director Chris Inglis during a morning meeting at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, DeWalt also placed the blame for most of the attacks on China, saying "89 percent" of the attacks come from that communist nation.
He put a price of "$1 trillion-plus" on the problem, noting that theft of intellectual property alone is at $250 billion a year and financial and identification theft is worth another $114 billion.
"The defense model today is completely broken," said DeWalt, a former president of McAfee Inc., the anti-virus firm.
Cybercrime has reach such a shocking level that Inglis suggested that corporate CEOs be held accountable for computer losses just as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act makes them accountable for financial losses. After all, he said, IT and what's held in computers "is a foundation of their business."
Inglis added that the U.S. government and U.S. firms "need to do more than take the slings and arrows" thrown from China and other attackers short of "vigilantism." But DeWalt said revenge is sometimes warranted. "I'm not sure I can comment frankly on striking back, but certainly at times we think that that's a necessary solution."