The James Bond image of the dashing super-spy had little basis in reality. Nowadays, the real spies are likely to be professional soldiers working at computers in an underground military base.
Hacking has been a topic of interest for me, ever since I read the seminal book The Cuckoo's Egg by Clifford Stoll. It's about a Berkeley astronomer who tracked down a German hacker who broke into U.S. military computers. Then he would sell the information to the Russian KGB.
Reuters had a fantastic article about the next phase of new Cold War: Cyberspy vs. Cyberspy. Like the headline suggests, much of the content focuses on government vs. government electronic warfare.
Of more interest to TechHui members is the section on commercial espionage, "The Business of Spying." This problem often goes unreported, because companies fear the damage to their reputations by disclosing cyberattacks:
The full scope of commercial computer intrusions is unknown. A study released by computer-security firm McAfee and government consulting company SAIC on March 28 shows that more than half of some 1,000 companies in the United States, Britain and other countries decided not to investigate a computer-security breach because of the cost. One in 10 companies will only report a security breach when legally obliged to do so, according to the study.
Google was one of the few Internet companies to speak out about this problem in 2010, when it reported Gmail accounts were being compromised.
The article goes on to say that this isn't the case of teenage pranksters out to steal some credit card numbers. These attacks are part of an orchestrated, state-sponsored campaign to gain an economic advantage:
"They've identified innovation as crucial to future economic growth -- but they're not sure they can do it," says Lewis. "The easiest way to innovate is to plagiarize" by stealing U.S. intellectual property, he adds.
This begs the question of what the U.S. government is doing to solve this problem. The Cuckoo's Egg painted an unflattering portrait of flat-footed bureaucrats who wasted time shirking off responsibility to other agencies. Avoiding blame was the name of the game.