Updated: Dec 12, 2022
For some time now, I have been contemplating writing an article on why hacking is THE most important skill of the 21st century. As if to emphasize my point, Russia has used its elite hacking teams to stage a bloodless coup of the world's most powerful empire. These events are a case study in just how important hacking skills are in this century and why YOU should study to be a professional hacker.
As many of you know, the Russians have some of the most powerful hacking organizations in the world. As Russia and Putin try to regain the power they held before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Empire, they have found that cyber warfare and cyber attacks are far more effective and far less expensive that aircraft carriers, tanks, bombers and nuclear weapons.
This summer and fall, Russia staged a cyber attack against the U.S. in an effort to get their candidate, Donald Trump, elected and were successful. Although the outlines of that attack are still being deciphered, it appears that these included creating fake Internet news stories, hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails, and possibly, hacking the voting machines of various US states during this election.
Although there has been considerable wailing and gnashing of teeth in the US over these alleged hacks, the US's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been meddling in other nations elections for nearly a 100 years. The US citizens and leaders should not be surprised when the same tactics come back at them, but then, that is a whole another issue.
Throughout human history, warfare has been a means to gain power and wealth. From the Greeks conquering of the "known world" to Rome's conquering of Gaul (France) and Britania ( Great Britain) to the British Empire's conquering the seven seas, each of these empires used physical or kinetic warfare to gain their power, wealth, and might.
With the dawn of the 21st century, that era may be ending. Cyber warfare is becoming more important and more effective than "kinetic" warfare. As the world becomes more and more digitally managed and controlled, those that can control the digital controls can control the world. If one adversary can disable the others' digitally controlled water systems, powers systems, sewage systems, pipeline systems, communication systems...they win! How long would a civilian population sustain a war without the basics of civilized life?
National governments around the world are attempting to attract and train hackers to attack and penetrate their adversaries digital networks and devices. The US government alone is looking for over 50,000 hackers over the next few years. To attract the necessary personnel, they are even considering loosening the military physical requirements and marijuana use exclusions on new hacker hires. They must be desperate!
Cyber warfare will only become more important in the near future and those with elite skills in hacking will be in high demand. Not only will they be well compensated, but may actually change the arc of world history.
As the Russian hacks made abundantly clear, cyber espionage is the preferred means of gaining access to your adversaries secrets. No longer will countries need to use human "cloak and dagger" espionage, but rather a well-placed rootkit in an embassy or oval office can gain more information than hundreds of spies. This is precisely what the NSA's Flame program did a few years ago.
Cyber espionage is likely to have increasing effects on the geopolitics in coming years. Just this year, the Panama papers have led to serious political shakeups across the world including the resignation of the Prime Minister of Iceland, and the embarrassment of Russia's Putin and Britain's Prime minister Cameron, all of whom had secret bank accounts in Panama hidden from their national governments. Russia's bloodless coup of their candidate in the US election may be the largest prize to date in cyber espionage.
Cyber crime has become one of the world's largest industries. It is conservatively estimated to exceed $500B every year. This would make it the 25th largest economy in the world. As more and more commerce goes to the internet and mobile devices are used for payment, this industry is likely to continue to expand rapidly, despite the best efforts of the banks and the information security industry. Elite hackers are in serious demand there and are earning exceptional salaries and bonuses in that arena.
Advanced Persistent Threat
Advanced Persistent Threat or APT is simply the continuous hacking by a state sponsored entity. It is often used synonymously for China's state sponsored hacking of the Western companies for economic benefit. China's state sponsored hacking teams have effectively hacked the intellectual property (designs, patents, formulas, etc.) of numerous western companies and transferred that property to Chinese companies, where they then manufacture the same products and ship them to the western economies.
This Chinese APT has been referred to as the "The Greatest Theft in World History" and has been estimated in the trillions of dollars.
As these threats from cyber warfare and cyber crime continue to expand, the cyber security industry will continue to expand rapidly in tandem. Major financial institutions are losing tens of billions of dollars to cyber crime and are willing to spend a serious fraction of that amount to deter cyber crime. Since hackers make the best security engineers, they will be in the highest demand and command the highest salaries.
In addition, bug bounty programs continue to grow as firms pay hackers to try to break their software before the bad guys do. The opportunities for the well versed hacker/penetration tester are nearly endless and lucrative in cyber security.
Hacking is the most valuable skill set of the 21st century and its importance will only grow over the coming years. Without a doubt, Hackers are changing the world and geopolitics! The skilled and well-versed hacker may be the greatest asset a nation has when it comes to geopolitics and cyber warfare. The importance of these skill sets is reflected in rapidly rising salaries in this industry.
For those of you who aspire to join the legions of hackers to lead your nation or company in this field, Hackers-Arise is the place to study and hone your skills!