Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

‘Cyber-privateers’

I heard that term yesterday for the first time, in two discussions held by New America’s Future of War team. It is meant to convey the sense that a state might commission a private entity to conduct offensive cyber-operations — it might be against another state, or an NGO, a political party, or a bank. ...

Wikimedia
Wikimedia
Wikimedia

I heard that term yesterday for the first time, in two discussions held by New America's Future of War team.

It is meant to convey the sense that a state might commission a private entity to conduct offensive cyber-operations -- it might be against another state, or an NGO, a political party, or a bank. The state or people on the other side likely would consider themselves under attack from cyber-pirates. But what if the attacker had some sort of letter of marque, as well as a sanctuary from which to operate? How would he be different from Sir Francis Drake capturing Spanish galleons laden with the gold of the New World? The Spanish put up a huge award for the capture of El Draque. How much would a major bank pay for the capture of a cyberattacker?

I heard that term yesterday for the first time, in two discussions held by New America’s Future of War team.

It is meant to convey the sense that a state might commission a private entity to conduct offensive cyber-operations — it might be against another state, or an NGO, a political party, or a bank. The state or people on the other side likely would consider themselves under attack from cyber-pirates. But what if the attacker had some sort of letter of marque, as well as a sanctuary from which to operate? How would he be different from Sir Francis Drake capturing Spanish galleons laden with the gold of the New World? The Spanish put up a huge award for the capture of El Draque. How much would a major bank pay for the capture of a cyberattacker?

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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