Even for the World’s Best Hackers: Phishing, Phishing, Phishing

For the first time at the Fortune Brainstorm — Tech conference, cybersecurity took the main stage at the annual Aspen meeting of top executives and business leaders. I was honored to be joined by two of the most distinguished and innovative leaders in the industry, General Keith Alexander, now the CEO of IronNet, and Marten Mickos, CEO of HackerOne. While awareness of cybersecurity problems is growing, the consensus is that we need firm actions in time to stop the barrage of headlines about massive hacks.

We hear more about company (and election) shaking hacks than ever before. Hacks start with phishing over 95% of the time, but we often only hear the effects of a hack, like ransomware, IP theft, and financial loss. Even as we worry about exotic hacks that might use artificial intelligence, side channels, and quantum computers, hackers are picking our pocket with simple phishing.

General Alexander once called hacking “the greatest transfer of wealth in human history,” a reference to the amount of Intellectual Property (IP) stolen from the United States. But the question remains whose responsibility is it to take action. We can’t rely on government to solve all of our problems in cyberspace and need to turn from attribution, vulnerability policy debates to actions that change outcomes.

When it comes to a safer future we’re optimistic. The economics of being a bad guy on the internet are good today, but they won’t be for long.

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