A security researcher ponders the future of cyberattacks and cyber-defense systems, and if they'll scale in the same way as internet giants like Google.
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One of the primary drivers of software profitability is scale. Software scales. Always has - and software that people want scales virtually infinitely. This is why companies like Facebook and Google can amass multi-billion dollar revenues on only a few dollars per user. Cyberwar will scale just as well.
Today, cybersecurity is still a very manual, people focused industry. This is starting to change today, with penetration testing companies like Bishop Fox moving toward more automated product models. But each engagement still has analysts and engineers involved, especially with more high-end products. This basic model will continue, of course, but the high-end human-centric products will become more and more specialized and more and more expensive as automation expands into the cybersecurity industry, as it has every other industry. Ever.
This is going to make the world a very interesting place. We still do a relatively poor job of creating secure systems (though we're getting better). Even today, with the kind of crude automation you'll see in criminal malware campaigns, we see infection rates of 10s to 100s of thousands of systems a day. Granted, these are not generally high-security systems, nor are the users typically very sophisticated. But as this kind of automation becomes more sophisticated, the campaign managing algorithms more nuanced, and the actors focused on things besides financial gain, this kind of propagation will be faster and much, much more dangerous.
Terrorist and extremist organizations have yet to really explore cyber vectors, but it's just a matter of time. Especially with a little help from nation-states with a grudge. If we can infect 100s of thousands of systems a day today, just imagine what someone can do 10 years from now if they have nothing to lose.
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