The United States is pressing China to stop hacking U.S. computer systems. China denies it’s doing anything. How long can we play this game before something really bad happens?
Pots and Kettles
The United States and Israel have been accused of using a computer virus known as Stuxnet to target Iran’s nuclear capabilities. While the effort certainly didn’t stop Iran, it is reported to have materially slowed the country’s efforts at building a nuclear bomb. Most Western nations would agree that this was a worthwhile effort.
It seems odd; however, that The United States is now calling on China to stop using hacking attacks. While some can justify the double standard based on the target and goal of the Stuxnet virus, Iran and its allies might not agree. To the same end, China surely believes that its Internet efforts are justified, even if it denies they exist.
The New Cold War
Accusations and denials between world powers sounds awfully familiar, particularly for anyone who remembers the cold war. That “war” was about nuclear missiles; today’s cold war is about computer attacks.
Anyone who has experienced a virus on their computer knows how debilitating it can be. However, imagine the electric grid being taken down by such an attack. Large swaths of The United States could quickly look like the northeast after the recent hurricane season left people without power for a week or more. Gas lines, an inability to refrigerate food, and limited communications could quickly make it feel like we’ve stepped into the dark ages.
At the end of the day, the interconnectedness of the Internet has been a wonderful thing for society. However, it has also opened up a new battlefield. Now is the time to think about this threat.
Invest in it
There are two ways to invest in cyber war. The first is companies that protect other public companies. Two leaders in the space are Sourcefire, Inc. (NASDAQ:FIRE) and Fortinet Inc (NASDAQ:FTNT). These two companies provide cybersecurity solutions.
Sourcefire, Inc. (NASDAQ:FIRE) has been in operation for 11 years and has more then 2,500 customers across 180 countries. It targets companies in the mid to large categories, as well as government agencies. The company’s top line has been growing steadily for a decade, though earnings have been less regular. With a collection of key patents and an large customer base, however, it is well positioned to keep growing since the threat against which it protects is only going to get worse.