In a recent AP article, a researcher describes a hypothetical scenario where given $100 million dollars he could build a cyber army in two years. Link here. I found this interesting because the tone of the article suggested that cyber armies like this don’t already exist.
The types of groups described in the article are real and actively performing espionage across the globe. Every day cyber armies are growing and advancing their craft. Just because the media hasn’t reported on these groups, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The rules in cyberspace are different from conventional warfare and it’s a lot easier to build a cyber army than to build a traditional one. It’s certainly easier to keep the cyber armies existence secret, where amassing thousands of aircraft and soldiers isn’t as easy to hide. I would think a $100 million was a drop in the bucket if you print your own currency.
If you’re a small country looking to gain intelligence on western companies and government agencies, wouldn’t a cyber army be the easiest way of balancing the scales in your favor? When you make the rules, there are no rules. As long as your adversaries don’t know what you’re up to, diplomacy is easy. Now if one of those espionage targets were to figure out what you were doing, that would probably be an international incident…unless they too, were trying to hide their own cyber activities. The world of espionage is funny that way, everyone does it, they just hope they don’t get caught.