north-korea-cyber-heistLast week, we learned about North Korea’s alleged involvement in a scheme to loot $81 million from Bangladesh’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The scary part about the heist isn’t the amount of money involved. The scary part is that cyber thieves have figured how to use the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) network to rob the Federal Reserve Bank. The SWIFT network was supposed to be virtually impenetrable. But the bad guys managed to pretend they were someone else – and somehow cruised past the security barriers.

For all of us in the tech industry, this should be a wake-up call. If you’re a CIO, CISO, COO, CFO or CEO – you need to consider the consequences of living in a world where unfriendly nation states have developed the capabilities for waging cyber warfare against us.

We need a robust national program for fighting cyber crime, and we need it now. As a society, we need to stop kidding ourselves about the dangers we face. Cyber crime targets intellectual property. That’s precisely why it is so dangerous. Our nation’s wealth is inextricably and irrevocably tied to the intellectual property we create in all of its many forms, from software products to banking systems. IP is our most valuable natural resource, and we’re not doing nearly enough to protect it.

For centuries, nations have measured their wealth by the amount of material goods and resources they possessed. Nations with more goods were not only wealthier than nations with fewer goods and resources – they were also more powerful. But for the past four decades, intellectual property has been the key driver of wealth and power in our economy. Our greatest products today are ideas. When those ideas are codified into software, they become incredibly powerful and enormously valuable.

For various reasons, we’ve been slow to see the implications of this radical shift. But our enemies have noticed. They understand the value of the knowledge and intellectual property we create. That’s why they’re trying to steal it.

I urge you to read last week’s article in the Wall Street Journal detailing the cyber heist. Also, please read the New York Times article I mentioned in Friday’s Tech News Digest