Despite the increased frequency and severity of online crime and espionage in 2011, many American corporations and consumers are still not taking the threat seriously, the FBI's top cyber official said Thursday.
The risk posed by criminal hackers is "existential, meaning it could eliminate whole companies," said Shawn Henry, the FBI's executive assistant director. If hackers were able to tamper with critical infrastructure such as the power grid, "it could actually cause death," Henry said in remarks at the International Conference on Cyber Security in New York.
To highlight the growing threat, Henry cited several recent FBI investigations, such as one involving a smaller company that went out of business after hackers stole $5 million from accounts, another concerning a larger firm that "virtually overnight" lost a decade of research and development worth $1 billion, and still another regarding hackers who encrypted millions of records of a health services company and demanded money for the password.
"We've seen the number and sophistication of the attacks by these cyber actors increase dramatically," Henry said.
"Hundreds of millions of dollars have been stolen, primarily through the financial services sector, just in the last couple years," he said. An organized crime ring in Eastern Europe, for example, earned about $750,000 per week from cyber theft, he added.
Note: Does your company have a Cyber TSCM / Cyber Counterespionage plan in place? Contact me, I can help. ~JDL